1 Corinthians 3.1-23; 4.14-21; 14.20
I’m glad to be an American … ours is a remarkable nation … founded on a vision, a unique vision - a land of equality, with liberty and justice for all … from sea to shining sea.
The vision remains … and we’re still working at it … we’re not always on target, and sometimes the story becomes garbled and confused … we’re unsure sometimes of what it means to be an American, living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Sometimes the story has been sad …
America decided that it was okay to wipe out the Native American population, take their land, break whatever treaties we might have signed, because Native Americans weren’t Christians, and weren’t always interested in our religion … and besides, “they were dirty savages.”
America decided that it was okay to have slaves … and throughout the Americas tons of sugar cane and cotton were grown and harvested on the sweat and tears of tens of thousands of slaves brought here from Africa, and preachers said it was okay, because people of color were the Sons of Ham, from Noah’s story, condemned forever to be slaves, to serve the interests of the white man … and besides, people of color weren’t fully human; they were less in the eyes of god, and in the eyes of the European - African culture and religion were labeled, “savage,” and the Europeans, in spite of centuries of war and bloodshed, claimed to have the upper hand and stood closer to God … and Christianity was too often preached by missionaries, not to liberate, but to quiet the people, make them subservient to their white masters.
To resolve the questions of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we had to fight a Civil War … and we’re still struggling with the big questions.
The Paula Deen flap of recent weeks reveals some of the fault lines still present in our nation … she tells us that she’s just a little white girl raised in the South and doing the best she can … but I’m not so sure … I wish she had simply said, “I’m sorry, and I’m going to do better” … but she posed as a victim, and claimed that jealous forces were out to get her … she could have been noble and wise, but instead Paula Deen choose to throw a pity party for herself … she might have become a spokesperson for a better day, but she ran away from the ugly truths of racism and bigotry, and hoped people wouldn’t notice her running away.
This morning, in some church pulpits in California and in other parts of the the nation, preachers will open the Bible and proclaim in loud and holy voices, that the Supreme Court is a great evil, President Obama is the Devil, and this nation is headed to wreck and ruin because of Marriage Equality …
Preachers will haul out the few verses that seemingly deal with this question … just a few verses, that’s all, just a few verses, and build a whole world of exclusion and bitterness and hatred on those few verses.
Those preachers forget the bloody and shameful ways in which the Bible has been used for centuries to hurt and to harm …
Last week Sunday, remember - the Bible tells us to stone to death unruly sons, and burn to death adulterers … the Bible tells us that women have no place in the church and ought to be quiet, and shame on women for wanting their rights and their place in the sunshine.
Heard a conservative describe what the Supreme Court did on DOMA and Prop 8 as "the unraveling of the American family" ... I thought to myself, "Unraveling? Not at all, but a blessing, an invitation … and invitation to millions more to enjoy the power and goodness, and the challenge, of being an American family." What we have today is not a loss, but a gain. Not an unravelling, but further knitting … the great tapestry of American Freedom and Hope just got larger … the quilt of our story, had a few more squares added.
When it comes to reading the Bible, we have to be wise … and this Sunday, all across the land, thoughtful preachers will lift up the goodness of God … churches will celebrate new found-freedoms and liberty … well-trained preachers will carefully open the Bible and expound the great message.
The central message of the Bible … the big message … the message that towers over every other story in the Bible … the message that defines how we read those few verses that condemn others … the message that anchors everything else, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so … little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, this I know … for the Bible tells me so.
This is our gift to America!
And Happy Birthday America! Keep on keepin’ on … we’re a great nation, and we’re still learning what our greatness needs to be … we’re still forging the American Dream …
It’ll never be finished … the work of liberty will always remain our greatest challenge … providing life for all of our citizens, and all who come to our land … we’ll always be a work-in-progress … the work goes on!
Children in poverty … our nation’s inability to provide comprehensive health care, still arguing about women and their rights … millions of people having to choose between paying the rent and going to a doctor …
Banks too big to fail.
Wall Street greed and the love of money.
Too many wars and too many secrets.
Building big walls on our borders.
American schools … safety for our children … student debt.
Our need for safe and reliable public transportation.
Let all of God’s Children in this great nation lead the way with wisdom and vision, kindness and charity, honesty and hope … because America’s original vision is a godly vision - life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness … justice for all … because all are equal in the sight of God … no one better than anyone else, and we have to help each other, because not everyone is strong … and we all have different gifts, and every gift is needed to make it right and good.
America is still exploring … no longer in a covered wagon crossing the great plains … now, our exploration is of the soul and of the mind … what DOES it mean to be free? … to be America … a land wherein the Lincoln Monument in Washington reminds us that of all the things Lincoln said and did, he saved the Union - all the people, and every state - that we belong to one another, and every human being within our borders, however they got here, to have a chance at the American Dream, and let no power, no government, no financial interests, stand in the way of hope and life.
I’m an American, and I’m glad to be here … I believe in the original vision, and I’m willing to say that God had a hand in it all … Happy Fourth of July to this nation, and to all who are here today, no matter how we got here - Happy Fourth of July.
This day, I’m a Christian, and I celebrate the name of Jesus … I lay claim to the Kingdom of God … the glory and the power of God’s love, here and now … the central message of the Bible, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Paul the Apostle tells the Corinthians to grow up … build on no other foundation than the one foundation laid in Jesus Christ our LORD.
This week, as our nation celebrates freedom … let us rejoice with one another, and hold one another up … securing freedom for one another, all the more.
Let us be wise in the ways of Jesus Christ … open wide the doors of freedom, the freedom for which Christ died.
Let welcome and affirmation be our way of life … speak the truth in love … seek justice … build the better way … keep on dreaming.
Help our nation be free … quiet the harsh voices of condemnation and greed … speak out for equality and opportunity …
Let us be of good cheer … kick up our heels a bit … enjoy the Fourth of July … and bring to life the best we can, in the name of Jesus, who loves us all.
Amen and Amen!