A very happy 4th of July to all. On this day in 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, “declaring that the thirteen American colonies were no longer part of the British Empire but now the United States of America.” How exciting it must have been to throw off the yoke of oppression and tyranny under the British, and fight for independence…a fight that continues still today. Franklin Roosevelt, in 1941, outlined four freedoms that he said everyone ought to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Those freedoms are worth celebrating in every generation.
As Americans we celebrate our freedom from British tyranny on July 4th. The Jews continue to celebrate their liberation from Egypt every year, and 2000 years ago, Jesus, our Lord not only celebrated the Passover in Egypt with his people, but also became himself the sacrificial lamb whose blood brought forgiveness of sins, freedom from slavery to sin and death, and whose resurrection brings eternal life for all who believe.
As Christians we are citizens of earth, and it is important that we celebrate our nation’s freedom, our fallen on Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day for all those who serve. And rightfully so. But we are first citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, whose baptism into Christ Jesus makes us sharers in eternal life. True freedom. Everlasting freedom. Not from the British or the Egyptians, but from Satan, from demons, from principalities and the rulers of this present darkness.
Yesterday I celebrated a baptism in the 1st Church. Emery Rocha was immersed in the waters of baptism and brought to new life in Christ Jesus. She was liberated. She is free. Free from the stain of Original Sin and the consequences of sin. She has been given a new birth and a new hope, and that should inspire us. But in what way?
Just as July 4 reminds us of the good news of our independence, so do baptisms remind us of the Good News of our redemption. We must honor our troops and remember their sacrifice, but so too must we honor our savior and reflect upon his sacrifice. In the U.S. we have Veteran’s Day and in the Church we have All Saints and All Souls Day. In the U.S. we have Memorial Day, and in the Church we have Sunday where we do this in memory of Him. And in the U.S. we have the 4th of July, and in the Church we have Easter, and Sundays, and Baptisms.
Roosevelt spoke of four freedoms: of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear, but today it appears our freedom, once gained, has created some complacency. With the freedom of speech we have not spoke out against injustice and violence, but have instead slandered, used hurtful words, and post anything about anyone without thought to the hurt we cause. With our freedom to worship we have refused to worship, do not honor the Sabbath, and instead worship at the throne of work, play, leisure, convenience, and pleasure. With the freedom from want we have become gluttonous–taking for ourselves not only what is ours but what is also our neighbors without thought to the harmful effects on others, the environment, animal life, and human dignity. Far from want, we are sick with greed. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid,” and we have become slaves to it. When we are afraid of the future, afraid for our children, afraid for our country, and when every excuse for every action starts with, “I’m afraid that…” or “I was just afraid so…” then we are not yet free.
In Galatians 5 St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery…For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” When we, as a nation, embrace Christ with faith, invite him into our homes and into our schools; when we take no offense at him, we will continue to be free and he will do great miracles in our life and in our country. But we must have faith and want Jesus more than comfort, pleasure, and security.
Margaret Thatcher said of the Athenians, and I think it should stand as a warning for us today, “In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”I did not fight in the revolutionary war, but I am an American who celebrates this great freedom. And I was not there at Calvary, but I am a Christian who celebrates the freedom our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed and died for. As Christian-Americans we honor those who have sacrificed on earth and we honor our Lord. And we must fight, live right, honor God, honor our country and creation, forego some comfort, and remain free. Happy 4th of July. Be safe.