Independence Day

July 5, 2020
5th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:11-18
Romans 7:15-25
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Yesterday we celebrated The United States’ day of Independence. It is the day we recognize the birth of this nation and our independence from the British Crown. Our nation’s founders chose to separate ourselves from one group of people in order to unite as a different group of people.

It took a special type of people, coming together to separate from what they had always known. To have the courage to say “we want a different life than what our parents and grandparents and great great great grandparents had.” These people stood up against the world they knew to learn and live a new life together.

To live this independent new life, they bound themselves together as a united people, concluding the Declaration with these words: ‘And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

This group of courageous and innovative individuals knew they needed each other to live this new and wonderful life they wanted. They chose, in their way and their time, to intentionally work for the greater good. Their idea of independence as a nation was not about individualism but rather interdependence. They fought for freedom from the British Crown, not from their collective responsibility toward the greater good and each other.

And yet, over the past 244 years, it seems that the idea of independence in this country has become individualized. But this is nothing new and unique to this country or this time.

People groups and nations throughout history, regardless of how and when they came together in the first place, have struggled against the human inclination to self-ness rather than other-ness.

Throughout history, God’s people have, over and over again, sought their own individual gain instead of intentionally working and living in unity for the greater good of all. Throughout our faith history, God’s people have decided to choose what is right in their own eyes rather than live as God teaches and calls us to live.

In our collect today, we are reminded that God taught us to keep all God’s commandments by loving God and our neighbor.

Sometimes, a lot of the time, loving our neighbor is hard and we don’t want to, so we intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously declare ourselves independent from this mandate. We individualize our faith so that “it’s between God and me” to separate ourselves from being accountable to others and living in community as our faith is taught throughout our holy scriptures.

We try to rewrite the Gospel message of Jesus to make it about individual salvation rather than the collective redemption of all of God’s creation. Again, this is nothing new to our “generation”. People have been declaring their independence from God’s plan since Adam and Eve.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is talking to a crowd about John the Baptizer and the promised signs of God. John had come to prepare the way and proclaim the promised time had come and Jesus has been preaching and teaching and healing and people are still asking “are you the one.”

Jesus tells the crowd, you’ve been told what to expect by the prophets so why, now that you’ve seen what you were told to expect, can you not accept it for what it is?

And Jesus compares their inability to accept what it right in front of them to a group of spoiled children who pout and whine because they aren’t getting their way.

We are still that generation. Choosing to live as if we were really independent individuals rather than accept the reality of our interconnected life grounded in God’s love.

I came across this quote from Julia Butterfly Hill this week and although it isn’t from scripture, it is truly Biblical:
“Love is not about froufrou New Age-ism. It’s about a way of living and honoring the interconnectedness of life and accepting our responsibility and our power to change the world for the better.”

So, just what do we mean when we talk about love as God intends us to understand love?

Love is “other focused” not self serving.
Love is looking beyond ourself and seeing the greater good of all.
Love is living in the knowledge that we are all interconnected and that every single thing we think, say, and do has an impact on others, whether we can see that impact or not.
Love is accepting our collective responsibility for the greater good and each other.

Jesus ends his sermon with, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Come to me, he says, all who have been fighting against what I’ve shown you, fighting against God’s live-giving, liberating, love. Let go of the fight and accept the grace and forgiveness and compassion that I offer freely to everyone.

Hear Jesus say, “Let go of the burden of trying to do it on your own and live as I designed and created you to live – in loving, covenantal relationship with me and each other.” This is the Gospel message, the good news for all, true freedom.

Together, grounded in God’s interconnecting love, with God’s help we can work together against the injustices and division in our country. We are only truly free when we are devoted to God with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection, following Jesus in the freedom to live the life God created us to live in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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