Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 9, Year C

July 3, 2022

Isaiah 66:10-14                  Psalm 66:1-8                       Galatians 6:1-16                                Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

          Tomorrow, on July 4th, we will celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence which was a step toward establishing this nation’s freedom.  Yesterday, I read the Declaration of Independence from beginning to end – something I don’t even remember doing when, as a child, I studied American History.  As I began reading it, I am sad to say, I could imagine some of the citizens of our country today writing it to declare our nation’s government incapable of preserving our liberties.  Such is the discontent in our nation. 

          Still, we will celebrate the declaration of our freedom from a host of injustices that caused the founders of our nation to declared our independence from British rule.  The portion of the Declaration of Independence that is quoted most frequently is: “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.”

What was declared was a step forward on the path that has been leading toward freedom for all.  We have been walking down this path ever since the Declaration of Independence was signed.  It has been a long and often violent path forward with periods like now where we back track.  Defining our freedoms and protecting our freedoms are the source of much of our discontent today.  What Paul writes to the church in Galatia is especially important for us to hear now. 

 “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you whohave received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”  Our nation was founded on the principles of democracy, yet our freedoms are under attack from within.   Our nation is polarized, not united, and transgressions are not being addressed with a spirit of gentleness.  We each need to adopt this spirit of gentleness if we are to resolve our differences and to once again be united. 

          Paul goes on to say, “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  And here is where his words cut to what I believe to be our problem, “For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.”  When we as a nation are polarized, I believe we are yielding to the temptation to think we are right and the other is wrong.  To be united, we need to acknowledge the possibility that there may be more than one way to address the problems in our nation, and our way may not work.

          Paul was writing to a community, a church, with instructions on how to deal with people who are on the wrong path.  Not only does he say that we, who have received the Spirit, should strive to help them find their way back, he also warns us to: “Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”  As he goes on, it is clear that he is addressing the “sins of the flesh,” and calling upon the people to “sow to the Spirit,” in order to reap eternal life at the harvest.

          As a nation and as the church, it is important to remember we are on a journey.  The path that Jesus teaches us to walk is not a path we are intended to walk alone.  In today’s gospel, it says that Jesus, “appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.”  He sends them in pairs because he knows the temptations they will face if they go at it alone.  He says to these 70, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”

          These disciples are being sent out to share God’s message of love and acceptance, of forgiveness and peace.  How are we spreading the Good News of Christ’s message to others?  How are we protecting ourselves from the wolves that seek to destroy our spirit of gentleness?  Today’s gospel teaches us that we are not to enter the fields like the wolf, but like the lamb – the paschal lamb we associate with Jesus who sacrificed his life for us that we might experience true life . . . and peace.

          When the seventy return to Jesus they are filled with joy for what they have been able to accomplish.  They know that what they have done has been possible because they have done it in the name of Jesus.  It is the collective power of God’s love working in us that enables us to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine.  Jesus rejoices with them and with us when we do what has been asked of us, when we carry his love to others and lives are changed for the better. 

          Tomorrow, let us celebrate the beginning our nation.  Let us celebrate and remember it was founded on the belief, that we are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And, then, let us go forth into the world, together, like lambs in the midst of wolves carrying the peace of God with us and proclaiming the kingdom of God is nearby.  God’s kingdom is never far from us when we carry the love of Christ in our hearts. 

Let us pray.

          Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this nation, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.