|Advent 1, Year B||November 30, 2014||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 23, 2014||Christ the King, Year A||Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46|
|Pentecost 23, year A||November 16, 2014||Proper 28, Year A||Matthew 25:14-20|
|Pentecost 22, year A||November 9, 2014||Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|All Saints, 2014||November 2, 2014||All Saints’ Day, Year A||Psalm 34: 1-10,22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 20, year A||October 26, 2014||Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Psalm 1, Matthew 22:34-36|
|Pentecost 19, year A||October 19, 2014||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Pentecost 17, year A||October 5, 2014||Proper 22, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 16, year A||September 28, 2014||Proper 21, Year A||Sermon, Proper 21, Year A Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32, Psalm 25: 1-8, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 14, year A||September 14, 2014||Proper 19, Year A||Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 13, year A||September 7, 2014||Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 11, year A||August 24, 2014||Proper 16, Year A||Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 10, year A||August 17, 2014||Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28|
|Pentecost 9, year A||August 10, 2014||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 8, year A||August 3, 2014||Pentecost 8, year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
Pentecost 3, year A
Sermon Date:June 29, 2014
Scripture: Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42
Liturgy Calendar: 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
This is America!
The land of the free and the home of the brave!
Unalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!
Don’t tread on me!
I’m an American.
I don’t want to be a slave of anything or beholden to anybody.
And so when Paul tells me that as a human being, I really am a slave, I get my back up. I get resistant.
Paul wants me to give some serious thought to which master I’m going to serve—sin or God.
And when I get past my resistance to the slavery language Paul uses, then I can see that what Paul really is talking about is freedom.
Because when we choose to be enslaved to God, we are on the road to life and true freedom.
Harold Masback, in the commentary on Romans in the Feasting on the Word Commentary for this season after Pentecost, points out that this passage from Romans helps us, as Americans, “to reexamine just what values we lift up on our national holidays.”
Masback goes on to say that we tend to think of our freedom as “freedom from.”
When we gather in Port Royal on the 4th of July and our Town Crier reads the entire Declaration of Independence, we are reminded all over again that yes, indeed, the colonists did want freedom from the “tyranny of the crown,” and this tyranny is defined in a lengthy list of examples.
But just as soon as we get focused on the idea that freedom from anything that will keep us from the pursuit of happiness and the gratification of our own desires is the only kind of freedom there is, then we become slaves to the tyranny of our own passions.
In the opening verse of the Romans passage today, Paul says, “Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.”
So is Paul against freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
No! Paul is all for freedom—the real freedom that brings with it life and happiness.
And that’s why he didn’t want the Christians in the Roman church and wouldn’t want us either, for that matter, to get so caught up in our own personal pursuits of happiness that we fall back into sin, just doing what we desire at the moment, what feels good right now, being addicted to the avoidance of pain at any cost and the pursuit of pleasure at any price.
Paul wants us to have the genuine freedom that, as Masback puts it in his commentary, “allows us to look beyond the moment and be obedient to a higher call—God’s call.”
Masback says that this higher call that Paul talks about is “entirely consistent with …. our nation’s earliest conceptions of freedom. “
Masback’s illustration comes from Alexis de Tocqueville.
In his 1835 book, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “I think I see the whole destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on these shores” –in seeking freedom from popes, archbishops and kings, the Puritans found “freedom for covenantal love of God and neighbor.”
Our closing hymn today is “America the beautiful,” written by Katherine Lee Bates. Masback says that the idea of “freedom for” echoes through the hymn—
In the first verse, we hear this phrase “Crown thy good with brotherhood” –the focus on community, the common good.
In the second verse, these lines, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.”
These heroes gave up their private lives of safety and privilege because they heard a higher calling–giving themselves for the vision of a new nation, a nation that would embody the ideal of mercy.
And this phrase, again about freedom from the immediate gratification of our own personal desires so that we can seek a greater good that has not yet been realized—“Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.”
I especially like the third verse of this hymn because in it see a vision of our dreams when we servants of God dream God’s dream—“the dream that sees beyond the years” –“thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.”
This dream brings to mind the description of our eternal lives with God where there is no more hunger and thirst, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
As an American, I believe that this is the America that the colonists sought and the America that we servants of God continue to seek—a brotherhood of all people, a country of welcome, reflecting God’s own hospitality, a country where Jesus would walk the streets and find his disciples extending his welcome and offering living water to those who thirst.
As Christians, this is our higher calling—to be free from our own selfish pursuit of happiness and free from the fear of what we might lose, so that we can be free to be who God would have us be, and to do what God would have us do–to be God’s servants, full of welcome and hospitality, people who follow the example of Jesus, speaking out and to working for liberty and justice for all.
Resource: “Romans 6:12-23, Homiletical Perspective” by Harold E. Masback III, pages 182-187, in Feasting on the Word: Year A Volume 3 Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16). David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2011.