Sermon Preached on Sunday, 4 July 2010, Pentecost 6, Proper 9C).
Fourth of July on Sunday is not a typical occurrence but mixing church and state is – especially near patriotic holidays. Today you will hear no sermon glorying in America or our history but the challenge of living as Christians in a nation with such rich blessings of freedom and resources.
All across America there are sermons being preached about the special nation and history we have in this country. We delight in telling the story of American uniqueness and well we should. But not in Church. When patriotic pageantry takes the focus off from the work of Christ for all people, we are in great danger. Christians must do more than merely remember the past. We must consider what our role is in the present. We do this realizing that the things we count as blessing have come as an expense to others. We are but 6% of the world's people, we consume a vastly disproportionate share of all the world's resources. And to further acknowledge how we have failed to appreciate the responsibility that accompanies such abundance, we acknowledge the sad fact that our people consume more than 60% of the world's illegal drugs.
As Christians living in a free society with such abundant resources and riches, we have a holy obligation to live wisely and faithfully. Today we heard St. Paul urge us to do good to all people, as we have opportunity. How well have we utilized such rich blessings for this purpose?
Clearly we do not lack opportunity. God has provided us with great riches – not only in terms of physical blessings but a heritage of liberty and freedom. We do not lack the ability – God has seen to that. Though we are tempted to put off good for others until we have enough, we must ask ourselves if we can afford to put off doing good until we need or want for nothing more. After all, the poorest American is still wealthy by world standards and most of us are not poor. Even though we may hide behind the designation middle class, it still means we have enough. Clearly we have the time – more time for leisure, for our techno toys, and vegging our in front of the TV. So what would God have us do with all of these blessings? Clearly with these resources, comes responsibility to use them wisely and consistently with the Gospel.
But what is the good that we are called to do? This is often where we as Christians fail our calling. We act as if the good that God would have us do is some deep, dark, mystery to be unpacked. In the Epistle, we heard St. Paul urge: Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up, so then as we have opportunity let us do good to everyone – especially to those who are of the household of faith. What is that good but the good that God has done toward us?
In Christ God raised up the poor with the riches of an abundant grace that supplied forgiveness for our all our sins and the means to healing the disease of death that sin brought upon us. You and I are called by God to raise up the poor as God has raised us up in Christ. We do this first of all by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around us. What God has so richly supplied to us in Christ, we dare not fail to supply to others through words of witness and actions of service.
In Christ God set free the captive, bound in sin and bound for death. All around us is a world of people and next door to us in our own nation are half the population still held in sin's captivity and death. If liberty is so precious for this life and freedom worth dying for today, is not the precious liberty of everlasting life and our freedom from Satan and his power of death not worth living for today? God has given us this good in Christ so we can give it to others. This is our call to do good by speaking Christ to all held captive in sin and its death. What God has done for us in Christ becomes our word of hope and our gift to those around us.
The old expression is that you cannot see the forest for the trees. Certainly what God has given us in Christ is perspective. We who are so tempted to judge everything by the moment are given the vision of eternity to help us see the forest while surrounded by the trees. We live in a world consumed by the moment. Is perspective not what our nation and our world need – the perspective of eternity? We are only free to live today out fully because we live in confidence of our eternal tomorrow in Christ. All around us we see people whose daily lives are lived out in despair and sorrow because all they see are their pains, their wounds, and themselves. We as Christian people have the gift of perspective in Christ and this too is what we share.
For us as Christian people today is mercy's moment. Every day is mercy's moment – the opportunity to be people of God's good will toward all those around us, sharing with them the mercy that has made us whole. God has given us much in this nation. As Christians living in such a land of abundance and freedom, we can either exploit God's gifts for ourselves or we can use those gifts to proclaim Jesus Christ, to raise up the poor an needy, release the captive, and give an eternal perspective to the things of this tiny moment.
As Christians we have been given these rich resources and blessed gifts in order to bring the eternal cross to bear in this present moment. We come today in confession that we have lived too much as if God did not matter and we mattered most. Let us not squander either the resources or the moment God has provided us to do eternal good in His name right now by sharing Jesus Christ, speaking the cross, serving the sick and the poor, and raising up eternity.
St. Paul bids us to boast in Christ in all we are and all we do. This is not a new law that lays a burden on us but the opportunity to live out freely the immortal values of God's kingdom in this very moment. Every moment is pregnant with opportunity and if we do good and share Christ, God has promised to bring forth the fruit of life in all our labors.
So when you head home today to celebrate this national holiday, consider that we as Christians owe something more to our country than patriotism. We owe the people around us and the Lord who has called us to use wisely, to use for the good of others, and for the extension of God’s kingdom all that richness of the freedom and resources which God has so wonderfully supplied us. God help us in this holy task that we may not simply be freed from but freed for living out without fear or limitation the fullness our baptismal vocation in this blessed land. Amen.