Celebration of Independence
Readings: Deuteronomy 10:17-21; Psalm 145; Hebrews 11:8-16; Matthew 5:43-48
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect 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 United States of America.Written the summer of 1787
The Articles of Confederation of 1781 were not adequate to move forward this grand experiment launched on the fourth of July, 1776. They started over again. And the original articles of the Constitution were not adequate either, so the Bill of Rights was added, the first ten amendments. Since then, we have added seventeen additional amendments.
There is still work to be done; there are still roads to walk toward perfection, toward “justice” for all, toward “domestic tranquility” for all, toward “security” for all, toward “general welfare” for all, toward “the blessings of liberty” for all. There is work to be done, and at times there are “rough rows to hoe” as my grandfather used to say. He worked on a farm; he knew about “rough rows” of crops “to hoe”.
Our patriotism tells us, that we have more work to perfect, to complete, the vision of the preamble to our Constitution.
How did our Gospel text conclude today – “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Remember that I do not select these texts for today, or any other day, either. They were established over fifty years ago by our Book of Common Prayer. Those scholars knew what we know today, our work is not yet perfected, and our work is not yet completed.
From the Gospel according to Ste. Matthew – God loves us all. Jesus made it crystal clear—the sun rises on the evil and the good, and it rains on the righteous and on the unrighteous. So, too, our love will need to stretch, our love will need to extend to include all. That will perfect our love; that will complete our love. We need to stretch so that God’s will “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our actions will need to match our daily praying of the Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes our stretching, and our walking, will see to take us where we feel we are alone. It will seem like Mississippi John Hurts’ ballad.
You got to walk that lonesome valley Well, you got to walk it for yourself…. My mother had to walk that lonesome valley… My father had to walk that lonesome valley… Oh, Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley…
At other times our stretching, our walking, will seem like Willie Nelson’s ballad.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is making music with my friends… Going places that I’ve never been Seeing things that I may never see again…
Making music, spending time, stretching toward perfection, and stretching toward completion with my friends is what Church is all about! Rather than the lonesome road, we are on the road together, a community of Jesus people.
I believe that to form a more perfect union, to be a more complete union, is to love one another, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and we need each other to accomplish this love. I need you, and I need to Holy Spirit of Jesus walking with us. In fact, I need that Spirit guiding us. And I suspect that you do, too.
Tomorrow we will celebrate, we will fly our flags, and we will watch fireworks. Then on the fifth of July, we will get walking again, we will get stretching our legs again on the road.
As the poet Robert Frost wrote:
[we] have promises to keep, and miles to go before [we] sleep, and miles to go before [we] sleep.