This weeks Sermon


 

“Final Countdown 2.0 – Dependence Day”                                                          

Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh

Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:5b-10                                                              

 July 4, 2021 – Communion Sunday


As has been DULY noted thus far, today is July 4th… in these (somewhat) ‘UNITED States,’ aka “Independence Day.  It is, of course, that day that commemorates our country’s declaration of independence from our ‘parent company’… er, COUNTRY… Great Britain, way back in 1776.  Ours is a nation, perhaps like no other, whose guiding principle might be summed up in one word:  FREEDOM.  That foundational statement of this principle of freedom, “The Declaration of Independence,” contains what is arguably the most pivotal sentence in our young country’s history:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

I recently read that Thomas Jefferson’s original language was just a bit

different in the opening phrase—that those ‘self-evident truths’ were, in fact, “sacred and undeniable.”  This change was due to a ‘Committee of Five’ including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  Ironic, isn’t it, that the man who was said to have his own ‘edited’ version of the Bible would himself be ‘edited’… by a committee… concerning a statement of faith. No shock that there was such a strong connection to PRESBYTERIANS in our country’s founding fathers…

            Regardless, however, of how many changes may have been made to this Declaration, as well as the Constitution that so greatly shaped our government, this ‘grand experiment’ became, in just a couple hundred years, the most powerful and influential country on the planet. And today, is also just as well-known to be a nation that is embarrassingly divided and deeply in-debt; one that sees far too many young lives lost at birth or in their first two decades of life.  A nation that has taken the term ‘partisan-politics’ to new lows.  In the words of Winston Churchill… whose cynicism was only out-weighed by his statesmanship… “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” 

            What I get out of his statement is the simple truth that NOTHING in this earthly life is perfect.  ESPECIALLY our government! The truth is that the very freedoms that make our country so great can also be abused, neglected, and can even harm others by their exercise.  That the perfect examples of how to pursue TRUE happiness, know TRUE liberty and live a TRUE life are not to be found in a particular form of governing.  But only in that ‘Creator’ that Jefferson and that ‘Fab Five’ referred to.  That our ‘freedom’ will be best realized NOT in our individual strength and ‘IN-dependence’… but rather in our admission of weakness… of our ‘DE-pendence.’  On God and one another.

            As we seek to be an exemplary ‘citizen’… not simply of an earthly ‘homeland,’ but of eternal ‘homeland’ of heaven… we should be mindful of who we represent.  What we ‘WEAR’ on our outside… ‘U-S-A’… is not nearly as important as who we ‘BEAR’ on the inside… ‘J-E-S-U-S.’  And what ‘background’ we come out of is not nearly as important as what comes out of our ‘foreground.’

            When Jesus came back to his hometown of Nazareth, one would have thought he’d be the returning conquering hero.  But all they could do was criticize him, become all indignant:  ‘This is just one of us!  Just a woodworker, a tradesman, a working-class ‘Joshua’ just like the rest of us.  Who does he think he is?!’  All they could do was consider this ‘background,’ where he came from, rather than LISTEN to what he was saying.  But I’m sure that WE would never do that… be pre-occupied with where someone ‘CAME’ from, rather that listen to where they were ‘COMING’ from…

            And that ‘pre-judgment’ of someone’s background can work both ways.  As the long-standing LC church seeks to reshape its future by a new, fresh emphasis on evangelism, there might be those who wonder just what new ‘tricks’ these ‘old dogs’ could possibly be up to.  Heck, there are those in our very own ‘kennel’ that are wondering the same thing.  ‘How can we be up for this arduous task at this time of our lives?  We are just not strong enough…’

            And what did Paul say?  “My power is made PERFECT in weakness.  I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the POWER OF CHRIST may dwell in me.”  As God spoke to David’s son Zerubbabel in the O.T., “Not by power, nor by might, but by MY Spirit,” says the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6)  Paul said that because of the power of Christ at work in him, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships and persecutions for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 

            Now, Jesus goes on to say about those ‘insults,’ those ‘persecutions’ his disciples might experience… those who “will not welcome you and refuse to hear you”… thathis followers should “shake off the dust on your feet as a testimony against them.”  It kinda sounds like an ‘in your face’ statement.  ‘Won’t listen to me? Fine. Take THAT!’  Somehow, the image of a big guy kicking sand in someone’s face at the beach comes to mind…

            But I would rather think that this is a tangible way for the disciples to figuratively, and literally, ‘let go’ of negative responses.  ‘Shake it off,’ if you will.

As should we all when we encounter those with negative attitudes toward us, and particularly when someone shows a hardened heart toward our FAITH.  We must be careful not to base our own worth on another person’s opinion… the only evaluation we must be concerned with is that of our Lord Jesus.  Do we want to be like those ‘hometown scoffers’… to whom Jesus was “amazed at their unbelief” ?  OR, are we like those disciples… “sent out… two by two… given authority… healing those who are sick?  As in, a ‘sin-sick soul’…?  In this difficult journey for which Jesus calls us, how will we let the people we encounter affect us… for good or bad?  Will we rely on our own strength alone?  Or in a power greater than ourselves? 

            In speaking of ‘difficult journeys,’ some of you may be somewhat aware of the… shall I say… interruptions… that Barrie and I… as well as her sister Susan and our daughter Catie… endured this past week.  As you may know, we had the opportunity to move back into a rental property in LC.  Not the one we had planned on, but a transitional house until our apartment can be moved into.  So, we drove to Welsh to pack up the ‘Residential Vehicle’ and bring it back to Baton Rouge.

            And on our way we spoke with a local cable provider to reactivate our service.  Whose two different reps we spoke with convinced us we never wanted to do business with them again. NOT a good experience.  Anyway, the following  day we stopped on the way back to get gas for the RV, and the engine, out-of-the-blue, dies.  430 rush hour traffic in Scott (Lafayette).  I was that person that I never wanted to be:  the cause of backed-up traffic.  Vocal drivers ‘saluting’ me as they went by.  And in the midst of this very unpleasant experience, several nearby workers run over and push the RV into the gas station.  Yes.  ‘Pushed’ the RV.  Talk about modern-day ‘Good Samaritans’…

            Then, in calling the roadside assistance people for the RV, I got to meet “Kayla.”  Even tho’ she had two young children running around her while she worked from home, she very sweetly and efficiently determined where I could have the beast towed, and lined up the tow company.  Where a very nice guy named “Hubert” got us ‘hooked up,’ quite literally, with a dealer-authorized company, and Catie, Barrie, and I toodled back to BR.

            The saga continued the next morning when Susan and I drove back to Lafayette to pick up the RV, which now had miraculously ‘recovered,’ only to have it die FOUR times in a 1.5 mile stretch.  In between trips to two different RV repair places, an AutoZone, and two gas stations, Susan and I stopped to take a break at the Golden Arches and ‘calmly and cool-ly’ consider our options… which I really needed another sane, friendly voice to talk to.  And after another hot tow truck ride, our former home-on-wheels has hopefully found a good ‘hospital bed’ in a repair shop in Carencro, where I had a LONG conversation with a VERY friendly Cajun couple.

            So just what does this long, convoluted story have to do with our Bible stories and personal faith?  That in our journey of life, sometimes people don’t listen too well.  Like cable company service reps.  And we can get frustrated.  And feel powerless.  Like when our vehicle inexplicably dies.  And miraculously, strangers may come to our aid.  With a friendly hand.  Or two.  Or eight.  Or maybe a stranger on a telephone.  Sometimes, when we feel at our weakest, most frustrated and tired, someone very close will be there for us.  Like maybe a sister.  Or daughter.  Or spouse.  Sometimes, when we can feel at our weakest, we can yet be at our strongest.  Not by ourselves.  Not by being IN-dependent.  But DE-pendent.  Dependent on the One who is always there.  By the power of the HOLY Spirit.  Or, by the power of the HUMAN spirit.  Spirits that sing to us of God’s LOVE and HOPE… Spirits that ‘sing a song’ of freedom…

            And speaking of ‘songs,’ in driving back across the Atchafalaya Basin yesterday for the THIRD time in THREE days, two of my favorite current contemporary songs came on.  One called “Child of Love,”  by “We the Kingdom,” and “Love God, Love People,” by Danny Gokey. And I want to share just a few lines from them:

“I’ve been running in circles Jumping the hurdles

Getting caught in that rush of doing so much I’m feeling kinda worn out.

Gotta keep it real simple, Bring everything back to ground zero,

Cause it all comes down to this, Love God and love people.

Oh, this is FREEDOM…”


And, from the “Child of Love” song:

“I’m gonna climb a mountain, I’m gonna shout about it, 

   I am a child of love.

I found a world of freedom, I found a friend in Jesus, 

    I am a child of love.”


On this ‘Independence Day,’ may we grow in our ‘dependence’ on God, and those messengers God sends us… especially when we are just flat ‘worn out.’  May we never stop believing that its not about OUR strength, but Christ at work within us.  Even when we’re stopped in rush hour traffic…ESPECIALLY if its US stopping the traffic… remember, YOU are a child of love.  Created to love God and love people.  And THAT, my friends, is true FREEDOM… freedom that, in Christ, IS, as Jefferson originally wrote, “sacred and undeniable”…

 

CHARGE:  As we considered some opening words of our “Declaration of Independence” earlier in our worship, as our ‘charge’ I would offer up to you this closing sentence from that historic statement:

“With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Just as Jefferson and our Founding Fathers believed this to be a fitting ‘charge’ for their defining work of ‘freedom,’ so too may we share in these words as our own ‘charge’ as we proclaim our own freedom…  not simply in a fallible country, but in an IN-fallible Christ.  That in celebrating the independence as a nation, we also declare our DE-pendence on our God, and on one another:   ‘firmly relying on the protection of divine providence,’ and ‘mutually pledging to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’  And as we go forward to fufill this ‘pledge,’ we KNOW that we do not do so alone.  But, that the Spirit of the living God…

 

Household Prayer: Morning

Loving God, as this day opens into new and untold possibility, purge me of my compulsive need to carry useless baggage—physically, mentally, or emotionally.  Teach me to walk simply with you as I trust in your abundant provision. Amen.

 

 Household Prayer: Evening

Lord, as I come to the close of this day, I thank you for the gift of attentiveness and for every moment that the eye of my heart was fixed on you.  When I failed, you were with me, and when I wavered, you were there, for there is no place that you are not.  And so I rest in peace this night, for your grace is more than sufficient for me.