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Celebration of Independence Day

Readings – Deuteronomy 10: 17-21; Psalm 145; Hebrews 11: 8-16; Matthew 5: 43-48

You know I don’t pick lessons for Sundays.  I take what is given by the lectionary, and then I begin, usually on Mondays, to let the Holy Spirit work on me, to let the Holy Spirit speak through the lessons so that I can, with all humility, speak to you. 

Today’s readings for the Celebration of Independence Day, they speak to the opening words of our Constitution of 1789.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more
prefect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defense, promote general welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our
Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
the United States of America. 

I think the key word is “perfect”; it is the same word from our Gospel reading – “be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect”.  Talk about stretching.  Think of Robert Browning’s words, the 19th c. poet.

The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was
made.  Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or
what’s heaven for.  To achieve anything worthwhile we
should attempt even the impossible. 

We are not talking about national greatness; we are talking about perfection; we are to be partners with God.  We are to walk with God.  We are talking about living our best selves. 

Today’s readings pull us along the roads that God walks. 

From Deuteronomy — our God [was we know in the Word made flesh, in Jesus]                  

executes justice for the orphan and the widow.

This is Social Security plus.  Our God

loves the strangers [hear refuges, hear immigrants] providing them with food and clothing. 

The author of Deuteronomy reminds us that we, too, were once strangers [refuges, immigrants].  Most of us here arrived on ships that crossed the ocean. 

From Psalm 145 —

the Lord is gracious, full of compassion.                

And we are partners, walking beside Jesus, are to likewise be                                                    

gracious, full of compassion. 

From Hebrews — we are to look forward not backward, we are to

desire a better country whose architect and  builder is God.

From Matthew’s Gospel words that directly follow the Beatitudes.

Love your neighbors [and also] Love your enemies [think Russia, Iran, North Korea] so that you may be children of [God].

Just as God is gracious and sends rain on

the righteous and on the unrighteous      

So, God’s partners, those who walk beside Jesus, are to do the same.  Wow!  Think we promise to walk a challenging path, sometimes even through “the valley of the shadow of death”. 

Let us celebrate who we are during these days of 4th of July celebration, and let us renew our trust in God, and let us renew our promise to walk beside Jesus, rather than expecting him to walk beside us.  Stretch, Strive, Reach to

Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

As children frequently ask on long car trips, “Are we there yet”, the response is that we are not, we are still on the road with Jesus to perfection. 

I will conclude with some of my favorite Robert Frost’s words from ‘Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening”.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Amen

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