July 5, 2015 Series: Lectionary
Topic: Biblical Verse: Ezekiel 2:1–2:5
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
God bless America. This weekend, people all around the country celebrated the founding of our nation in fireworks and fairs, parades and picnics. The Fourth of July remembers the approval of the Declaration of Independence, the document which declared that the United States of America would no longer be under the authority by Great Britain. Living here in the shadow of our country’s capital, we’re only miles away from that original Declaration of Independence housed in the National Archives. More so than most people, we have the opportunity to look back on the past to see how we’ve gotten to where we are now.
Looking back as Americans, we might not be completely honest about what we’d see. Even though it’s not something that comes up a lot as part of our Fourth of July celebrations, our nation was established in rebellion. The signers of the Declaration of Independence – and the country which they founded – were a bunch of rebels. They rejected the king’s authority in favor of self-determination and self-rule. Rebellion has been a part of our nation’s history from day one. Even today, we are born rebels.
A little over one week ago, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling that has caused both uproar and celebration across the country. At this point, no one can really say just what the repercussions of this decision might look like in the years ahead. But that hasn’t stopped commentators, corporations, or candidates looking to make the most of this opportunity to win favor with people on the various sides of the issue. That being said, however, the Supreme Court decision itself shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. As we’ve seen, our nation has a lengthy history of rebelling against authority, and that includes God’s gracious design for life. American culture long ago gave up on the lifelong marriage of husband and wife as the sole proper place for the fullest expression of intimacy. Decades upon decades’ worth of movies, television, and magazines give evidence of that. One of the biggest impacts of the Supreme Court’s action might just be finally removing the illusion that our nation is generally obeying God’s authority. It is not. We are not. We have been rebels.
When it comes down to it, rebellion is all about who’s going to be in charge. Who will you obey? Back in 1776, Americans rejected a distant king who did not care for their welfare. Today – whether they admit it or not – we human beings regularly treat our Creator the same way. Thinking God to be remote and unconcerned with our actions, people like you or me set ourselves up as the ultimate authority to allow whatever we deem acceptable. We reject God’s authority for in favor of our own. The simple fact is that we have each rebelled against God in hundreds of different ways. That includes the lack of love shown the people around us each day, especially when someone doesn’t agree with us. We all need to be pardoned of our offenses and forgiven for our rebellion.
You and I are here today because God is at work to deliver what we need as He calls us together. The Good News – regardless of what any government edict might be – is that God has given Himself to win forgiveness for the people who have rebelled against Him, no matter who they have been. The same Jesus of Nazareth who visited his hometown to bring God’s healing mercy is the same Christ who went to the cross for them and for you and for me.
You may have heard it said that “love is love,” but the truth is that “God is love” (1 John 4). God loved us and our rebellious world in this way: He went to suffer and die the traitor’s death so that each of us might know the faithful Son’s place of honor at His side. This is the God who is here for you today to welcome you into a restored relationship with Him. And that relationship with your Creator transforms all the other relationships in your life, because it transforms you.
One of the most amazing things about God’s gift of Baptism is that it gives you a new identity. The day that someone is baptized into Christ is a birthday. We don’t celebrate this with fireworks or parades, but it’s a birthday that’s worth remembering. That person has been set free (Galatians 5:1): set free to be the person that God has called them to be, free from forced obedience to the authority of sin and self. In Christ, you’re no longer compelled to rebel against God and His gracious design for life. In Christ, you’ve got the freedom to live according to God’s instruction. That’s not to say that freedom is easy, because living out your identity as a baptized child of God marks you as a different kind of rebel: a Christian.
As a Christian, someone who has been set free through God’s gift of faith in Jesus to live out that new identity, you and I are now rebels against the world’s rebellion! In a nation that lifts up the importance of living for yourself and your own satisfaction, Christians are called to live for others and to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We serve God through loving service, service that reflects Jesus’ healing love for our broken and rebellious world.
As a rebel against the world’s rebellion, you and I have been called to live in obedience to God’s instruction. Our faith is not founded in politics or personal opinion but in the objective truth of God’s living and active love for all people, made known in His Word. As an American Christian, live out God’s love which you have through Jesus. Just as it has since its founding, our nation needs that love.
God called the prophet Ezekiel to bear His Word to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon. They, too, were nations of rebels who had set aside God’s authority in favor of self-determination. But even so, God didn’t abandon them. He sent His prophet to speak the Word and call people to repentance and life. Even in exile, God instructed the people of Israel to be who He’d called them to be. They were to make homes and plant gardens, living out their vocations in love and service that pointed to their Lord. God even told His people to pray for Babylon. And so it is for Christians today.
Pray for this great nation in which we live and work, that more and more people may know God through Jesus our Savior and follow him. Live out God’s love for your family and neighbors and coworkers and friends, even and especially if they are in outright rebellion against God’s instruction – because you and I have been, too! Serve as an ambassador of Christ who depends on his love and knows His forgiveness. Living in Christ as a rebel against the world’s rebellion, the nations “will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)
God bless America – and He will, through you!