God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes and Outline for Sunday Message; USAmerican Independence Day’2014; Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Today, July 4, 2014, our nation (The United States of America) celebrates anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence. Our nation refers to the calendar date of July 4th as Independence Day.
On Sunday, July 6, 2014 we will have a special service with the Celebration of the Holy Communion dedicated to commemorating the history and meaning of this day and living its legacy into the future.
Our Services will be held:
8:45 am @ Worton UMC
10:00 am @ Christ UMC
Scriptures for this day: Galatians 5:1,13-18
You can read it here: NIV2010 & CEB
UMH697 – “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”
UMH 696 – “America the Beautiful”
The beginning of July is a celebratory time in the United States of America. On the 4th of July we remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence that happened on July 2, 1776. The thirteen (13) colonies rebelled against the rule of England and against imposing taxes without any representation in the British parliament. For the colonists this was a time of making hard decisions. For the colonists this was a time for making choices that challenged the status quo. For the colonists this was a time to think outside the box.
And this is what they wrote:
When in the Course (sic) 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.
Just reading these few lines it is easy to hear the passion and the resolve of the men who signed their names on the Declaration. Just reading these few lines it is easy to hear the struggle and debate that led to developing this document. It is easy to hear why we cherish this document and the sentiments that it espouses, and why we celebrate Independence Day. We celebrate the spirit, the idealism and the resolve of these men to build a better world.
That is why many businesses are closed on July 4th, most workers get a day off, there are fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, and other forms of celebration. The Independence of a nation is a gut wrenching, monumental triumph and it is a legacy and accomplishment to remember, to celebrate and be inspired by.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
The truth is that most nations celebrate some sort of Independence Day. As a kid I was celebrating Independence Day in the Old Country, Independence Day in the republic where I lived, Independence Day in the Soviet Baltics and Belarus where I visited quite often. This year a strange coincidence jumped at me: the declaration of all of these “independence days” were preceded by a disagreement and were followed by some form of a civil war. For me it was a “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) moment.
I realized that the common vision, the common understanding were born from strife and conflict and , once born, were followed by a struggle that tested the resolve and validity of the new understanding.
Our country is not an exception. We call the war that followed the signing of the Declaration of Independence the “Revolutionary War,” but we know that it was a war where members of the same family found themselves on opposing sides. In a way, it was a civil war fought between the neighbors and citizens of the colonies.
As Christians all of us have a personal “independence day” marking when we recognized the presence of the Living God in our hearts.
And when we recognize the presence of the Living God in our hearts, the presence that challenges us to be the best that we can be, all of a sudden we recognize how tempting (not to mention easier) it is to be LESS THAN the best that God created us to be.
One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One wolf represents Evil -it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other wolf represents Good – joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’
Knowing God implies that we also know and have the ability to recognize evil. Knowing God means that when we are tempted by something, we hear a small voice urging us to NOT succumb to the temptation, but to keep our eyes on God, to keep the faith.
In Galatians 5:15 Paul wrote, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Which wolf are you going to feed?
Not all of us are fortunate to pinpoint the day when we gave our lives to Christ. I am fortunate because I remember the day when I first became consciously aware of God’s presence. I am fortunate because I remember the day when the Holy Spirit moved me to answer the altar call at Gloucester County Community Church.
For some of us it is not such a well-defined event; for some of us it is a process, a series of days, weeks and months that led to an “A-ha!” moment.
The reason I chose the reading from Galatians today is because I think that it is Paul’s personal declaration of independence. It is easy to take the words that Paul wrote and adapt them into our lives. The following is my attempt:
We, the people of the Church established by Jesus, believe that Christ has set us free to resist evil and enjoy everything that is Godly, right, true and beautiful around us.
We believe that we have tendencies to overlook the “whispers” from God and concentrate on the “shouts” from our sinful nature. That is the internal struggle that all of us are engaged in individually and as a community.
We also believe that Jesus gave us freedom to resist evil so that we can serve God by serving one another humbly in love and serve the world in which we live. That is why Jesus taught us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Encouraged by these teachings we will resist internal strife in our community so that it does not destroy us. By resisting in-fighting we will also provide a welcoming and uplifting environment for ourselves
and for our neighbors to grow and thriveto grow and thrive and a welcoming place for our neighbors.