July 3, 2016 – “The Declaration of Independence”
I love the 4th of July don’t you? There’re some things about the 4th of July that are fun to know like; in 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Also, every year since 1785, 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island has held a 4th of July parade, the oldest continual 4th of July celebration in the US. And that in 1916 the, now annual, 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn in New York supposedly started as a way to settle a dispute among four immigrants as to who was the most patriotic.
Well those are some of the fun things about the 4th, but for me, what I really love about the 4th is what it’s really about – celebrating the signing of the document that declares our nation free and independent. The words, the words on that parchment that I’ve seen in Wash DC, those words are what get me. To be in the presence of that document along with the other Charters of our freedom is a very moving experience. These are the words that have set our course as a nation for the last 240 years.
That’s why I wanted you to have a copy of that Declaration to take home and read. It’s two sided so you can have a look at the engraving that was made in 1823 by a man named Stone at the direction of John Quincy Adams, and then a transcription of it in plain type on the other side. Listen to just a portion of the words from the last section We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
If you’ve not read the whole thing since jr. high social studies, look it over again. It has some of the most powerful words in the English language. So powerful in fact that they set us free. They give to us a legal change of status.
To ‘declare’ is to assert something as being different than before the declaration. So our Declaration of Independence means that before we were dependent, and after the Declaration we are changed, we are now independent. So what gave the signers that authority, what gave them the right to make such a declaration?
In the words presented in this document it is under the authority given to them, given to them by others, by those who chose them to govern them. That is to say, the signers were not acting out of selfish or personal motivation or authority. The basis of that Declaration is that ‘the people’ who put them into office have done so with the intention that these ‘in general congress, assembled’ act for them, act in their place and do what they have sent them there to do.
That idea of authority given and not taken is also at the heart of the gospel lesson today. The disciples were sent out by Jesus to act based on the authority He gave to them. And in that authority they acted. They declared people free from their ills and ailments, and also set them free from being captive to demons. But along with those actions Jesus also gave them the charge to say the words, “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” The disciples’ authority to act did not come from themselves but from the King of the kingdom.
Jesus, the King, acted on the authority of His Father but also on His own authority. For in fact He and the Father, in ways we cannot fathom, are one. We see Jesus’ authority verified when He tells His disciples in the 10th chapter of John’s gospel
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
And then He does just that. Jesus goes willingly to death on the cross and, based on His authority from the Father and His own authority as God; He takes up His life again. He thus gains the victory over the tyranny of death and sin that the world was held under. In this week that we celebrate our national Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the despotic king of England, we can only marvel at what Christ, the gracious King of Heaven has done for us.
The cost of our freedom in this country was born by those who pledged their lives, their fortune and their scared honor to each other – and to you and me. We couldn’t be here today as we are had they not fought and died. They did that for you and I, they carried that burden, for us.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. In the epistle lesson today we hear these words. Our forbears carried the burden for us of sacrifice and for us they demonstrated what St. Paul said about fulfilling the law of Christ. As we spoke of last week, that is sacrificial living. That’s what they did for us. They sacrificed for us; they bore the burden so we can be free to learn the law and love of Christ.
The war for our national freedom was waged with terrible consequences. Friends died in the arms of friends. There were those who died without being sure that the cause was going to be won. They gave their lives for the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence – not knowing for certain that its promise of freedom would come to pass.
And yet the death of those willing to give their lives for our freedom in the War of Independence reminds us of the greater death that Jesus died for our eternal independence. Jesus gained the victory of our eternal independence from the guilt of our sin and the condemnation of eternal death. The war that Jesus fought and won for us, for our true freedom, was of a greater scale than that suffered even in the war for our national freedom.
Sitting here today, we can barely grasp what our forefathers suffered to backup the claims made in the Declaration of Independence. And yet we have in our heart the knowledge that most every generation in our country has had to put forth its own blood in order to maintain that Declaration. And make no mistake we are doing that again in our day.
But can we grasp, along with that, the terrible cost that Jesus paid for our eternal freedom? This Son of Liberty who died, was the only Son of the Living God of heaven. And He took on His shoulders the sin of the world, so that the world could be free of sin.
Jesus gave His life for our freedom. And yet as we said before, it was by His authority that He chose to die, to willingly give Himself in our place. He lived the perfect life of innocence and righteousness and then died the death of sinners, so that sinners could have His righteousness. In having His righteousness, we can be declared free. Just as the disciples in the gospel lesson today could declare people free from their bondage to demons and illness, so we hear our declaration of freedom from bondage to sin in Jesus’ words to the disciples today for them to ‘rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
That joy is what you and I experience each time we have confession and absolution. We come with repentant hearts and minds to hear and receive the Divine true pardon that is ours through the declaration of forgiveness. If you were to look in the hymnal, you’ll see that I’ve made a slight alteration to how I say you’re forgiven in Jesus name. I’ve always liked to use the words, “I therefore declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
As we said earlier; there is power in a declaration. There is a change of being, a complete break with what was before when a declaration is made and established. Through the blood of Jesus our forgiveness has been established and each week, or when I come and give you home communion I declare, declare that forgiveness is yours and so you are changed, you are set free, you have been cut off from your sins and you are no longer the same.
And like the disciples as they went in the gospel lesson today freeing people by Jesus’ word, it isn’t my authority that gives that declaration of forgiveness its power. But it’s by the power and promise of Jesus that I speak those words. That is why I prefer to use that phrase, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.
Now, one final thing about the 4th of July. Many of you may know this but it still gives me chills to think about. 50 years to the day after the Declaration was signed, two of its signers, one of them its major author, died. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of one another 50 years to the day after they had been in Independence Hall in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Reportedly John Adam’s last words were ‘Jefferson lives’, though sadly he was already dead. However, we can say ‘Jesus lives’ and know it’s true. We know it’s true by His authority, which raised Him to new life and by which we are declared free. In His name, amen.
Sermon #834 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Isaiah 66:10-14
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
12 For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.
Epistle Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18
6 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Holy Gospel Luke 10:1-20
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.