Independence Sunday
7/1/01, P4C

“Let Freedom Ring!
Galatians 5:1; 13-25

uring our family's long camping trips through "the great 48 states" we visited many of the places associated with our nation's history. Marilyn's favorite place is Williamsburg where there has been created a village similar
to the British Capital of Colonial America. Nearby we visited the ruins of Jamestown where early pioneers settled and where most died during severe winters. In Philadelphia we saw the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th 1776, just 225 years ago this Wednesday. Near Independence Hall we saw the Liberty Bell from which the American slogan came, "Let Freedom Ring!" Our Lyn was an infant when we carried her up the spiral staircase to the top of Lady Liberty and looked out across New York's Great Harbor toward Ellis Island where so many refugees had stopped on their pilgrimage to a new beginning in a land of freedom.

Another site that I particularly wanted to see was Plymouth Rock, said to be the spot where the Pilgrims first set foot on this new world. From primary school I had been enthralled with the story about these dedicated English refugees who sought religious liberty in a new world. This story was not only told in public school, but the idealistic vision of our Pilgrim Forefathers was also retold in Sunday School. The image that I received was that America was created for a higher calling and purpose as a light to the world, a kind of new experiment in creating a nation where individuals could follow God and build a new country dedicated to freedom from repressive state churches and the tyrannical rule of monarchs.

I had images of Plymouth Rock being a huge object of religious and
national devotion; perhaps something as beautiful as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Although Plymouth Rock was smaller than my mind had envisioned, just big enough to step out of a small boat upon, it was a thrill to stand on the stone upon which the passengers of the Mayflower disembarked. Their spirit of standing firm against severe winters and disease, vowing to never again be subjects of a tyrannical empire rekindled my spirit and vision of just how precious our liberty is. This great ideal of a new nation bearing a higher calling remains my vision for America. This desire for freedom found its source in the Bibles of The Pilgrims as exemplified in today's text: "For freedom Christ set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." (v. 1, NRSV)

In the main, America has seen itself as an experiment in religious freedom. We call ourselves, "One Nation Under God," "A New Israel" Our motto has been, "In God We Trust." We pride ourselves as being, "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." America at its best is a miracle; or we might say, a work of the Spirit.

However, we must admit that not everyone who came to America ame as idealistic seekers of religious liberty. Some came as merchants seeking cheap commodities that could be shipped back to Europe for profit. Soldiers came to set up outposts of their European nations. We spent some time last week in Saint Augustine, Florida, the oldest city on the North American Continent.
The old fort is now a tourist attraction that was built for defending the new world under the Spanish flag. The motivation of the Spanish monarch was to conquer new territory in order to make Spain more wealthy. Likewise, the Boston Tea Party was our response to repressive taxation without representation in government.

A black eye on our national history was our participation in the slave
trade whereby thousands of Africans were kidnapped at gunpoint, herded into the holes of ships, and forced to work like animals. Somehow we turned a blind eye to the savage nature of our sanction of one of the meanest episodes in history. Years after slavery had been ended by a devastating war, pitting brother against brother, American against American and Methodist against Methodist we continued a semi system of slavery called segregation. Even yet our struggle continues to wipe away the vestiges of racial discrimination,
however we march on with a renewed vision of the higher call of freedom for all in Jesus Christ. Still today the chief motivating factor are the words of Christ who said, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32, NLT) and, "So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free." (Jn. 8:36).

Although these texts, and today's lection from Galatians, are speaking about spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ from Old Testament Law, there is a natural transition of these principles to our day to day exercise of liberty. Through Christ we are called to the high ideal of living unselfishly for the common good. We are able to "stay free" (5:1) by respecting governmental laws that protect the rights and liberty of all people. We are not free to do as we please Those who insist on totally doing their own thing run the risk of falling back into slavery to their sinful impulses and obsessions. In our text Paul distinguishes between freedom to sin and freedom to serve, "For you have been called to live in freedom-- not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as
yourself." (v. 14-15). Paul is dealing with the delicate balance between the two forces struggling within us: our selfish nature at war with the stronger power of the Holy Spirit, "So I advise you to live according to the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves." (v.16). Paul further lists the type of evil that results from following our natural desires that lead to slavery to sin instead of freedom. Then Paul lists the wonderful characteristics of the redeemed personality that is following the guidance of the Spirit: "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (22-23). This is made possible in our hearts as we.. nail the passions and desires of our sinful nature to the cross." (5:24). Maurice Boyd calls this "Dying Into Life," spiritual
victory over evil that we might live in the freedom provided by the Cross of Christ.

Is it any wonder that we Americans are able to so easily amalgamate our religion with our ideals about our precious government? After all, these are the pangs of our birth, our life, and our hope for the world and for Christ's Kingdom.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

Independence Sunday, 7/1/01, P4C