7/5/98, P5C

“America's Second Chance”
Luke 10: 1-11; John 8: 32-36

ery few Lords and Ladies of Europe decided to get on small sailing ships and cross the Atlantic to America; indeed, most white Americans are the progeny of the poor and downtrodden, broken folks who came for a second chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many African Americans are likewise descendants of a broken people, stuffed into the holes of slave ships. Millions from all over the world continue to swear allegiance to the United States reflecting our original spirit of hope for a new life. We remain a people with a survival attitude, an independent folk who never again will buckle under to a tyrant, landed gentry, or king The words of Robert Frost have never been more true when he described America as “A New Hope for the human race.” (Columbus).

During this weekend's patriotic celebration of independence we are called to remember the origin of our new spirit and new hope for this “New Israel.” It was of course the biblical vision of spiritual liberty that found it’s home in our hearts and changed the course of history.

After reading Jesus’ words in Luke about “The Kingdom of God” (10: 16) it is not hard to see how our ancestors could easily identify their plight with Jesus’ notion about spiritual freedom transmuting into civil liberty. Jesus promised his followers, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8: 32).

This New Testament imagery was the motivating force that propelled the first American settlers to come to these shores at Plymouth Rock, Jamestown, and many other humble places. They were seeking a “New Israel,” another “Promised Land,” in which to be free to exercise their religion and political ideals of freedom form oppressive tyrants and kings. America’s greatness has been in it’s experimental newness, and in the unity and bonds of mutual mission and joint adventure in accomplishment of this great goal: And in brokenness.

But in recent years we have grown cold and closed. We have moved beyond our experimental ideals to an institutional maturity. We have at time begun to act like our oppressors use to treat our ancestors. Today we have become the world’s only super power. We have won the cold war with communism. There seems to be no new frontiers.

Is there a second chance for America?

I first felt a new promise for America during the brief four year presidency of Jimmy Carter. For the first time our government was talking to other nations about the importance of “Human Rights.” That was more than a new catch phrase, it was a new approach to morality and ethics in government. It was also a new way to encourage others to embrace our moral ideals about liberty and freedom. Since then we have seen a breakdown in the walls that long divided the world. I was in Poland during the first fee election held there in 44 years of communist oppression. The free Poles gave credit to America’s push for human rights, and the leadership of the Catholic majority and Protestant minority, that enabled the new day when proud Poland could be free again.

Today there are pangs of a new birth of freedom in communist Cuba, and even in China. The longing of these wonderful people is the age old yearning to be free. In both countries it is the rise of an underground Christian movement that is fueling the fires of liberty. I have known people who have visited Cuba in recent years and they have reported a vibrant and evangelical revived Methodist movement in Cuba. The independent Pentecostal groups have a vast, but still hidden, following among the Cuban people. As in Poland, I predict that the underground Christian Church will one day be the catalyst to topple the oppressive communist dictators that have a stranglehold on Red China, and Cuba.

The commonality of what we see happening around the world is strikingly similar to the explosion of freedom that our forefathers were a part of in this vast new land. What these burgeoning nations are experiencing is exciting to us because we know that it can lead to new life for many persons, and a new opportunity for people in those countries to once again hear the full gospel of salvation. Of course, the work of carrying the gospel is not the responsibility of our govermnent, but is in the purview of our churches; however, until the door is opened we cannot carry the full hope of freedom to these spiritually starved people.

America’s Second Chance is the challenge to open these doors of hope for the influx of the freedoms that we enjoy. Furthermore, in doing so perhaps we too will experience a new appreciation of freedom.

But we must be careful that the whole message of America get through: If the spiritual dimension is left out then we could just exchange one oppressive economic system for another. If we only export industry to these starving people we will be only filling their physical needs. But, if the Christian message gets through these nations have a new chance.

I do not suppose we can expect the American government to officially sanction the mission work of evangelical Christianity, they never have. We simply need an open door to get in through, and then we can do our job. The danger would be if our government would limit the exportation of the gospel. Already in Russia we have seen our government allow the still oppressive Russian system to limit the free exercise of religion. Evangelicals, including Methodists, have been prevented from operation outside of the officially recognized Russian Orthodox Church. The problem is that the state church has long been a dupe of the communists, and now the current limited liberty bosses of the vast Russian people.

At this patriotic observance of the 222 birthday of our Declaration of Independence, let a new birth of freedom begin in our hearts and gush forth into the whole world. As America has a second chance at enabling millions to live in freedom, so we have another chance to carry the gospel to everybody everywhere.

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

7/5/98, P5C