July 7, 2019 – “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 essence. 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 have celebrated 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 borne 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 national forbears carried the burden for us of sacrifice and for us they demonstrated to us 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 endless 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 that still goes on today.
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 being granted His righteousness, we are 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, the proclamation of forgiveness to each of us.
As we said earlier; there is power in such a declaration. There is a change of being, a complete break with what came before the forgiveness that Jesus told us to declare. Through His blood our forgiveness has been established and each week, your total forgiveness is made clear in the words of absolution. And in those words, you are changed, you are set free, you have been cut off from the guilt of your sins and you are no longer the same. And like the disciples in the gospel lesson today freeing people by Jesus’ word, it isn’t my authority that gives that announcement of forgiveness its power. It’s by the power and promise, by the words and works of Jesus that I speak those words.
Now, one final note about the 4th of July. 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 exactly 50 years after being together to sign the declaration.
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 #1035 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.”