Friday, July 04, 2008

Dependence Day

Every year it rolls around, that wonderful summer holiday we, Americans, call “Independence Day”. It’s the holiday that celebrates freedom and Americans love freedom. We’ve fought for it over the generations. We defend the cause of freedom around the world today. It was on the 4th of July in the year 1776 that our young nation was formed by a Declaration of Independence from the British Crown. America was born!
Independence is in our blood. The every person grows from formative, dependent, childhood to the independent youth that is reaching toward adulthood. There comes a time when we desire to be free and “on our own”. I often think of this as I watch the annual season of high school and college graduation. I remember my own venture from home to college and my taste of independence. We feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when we’ve done something on our own, from the first batch of cookies I made “by myself” to the water pump I replaced on my Plymouth Horizon in only 4 days. (Can I help it if the whole engine sank four inches when I removed the wrong bolt?)
Yes, America was born on Independence Day, by breaking ties of loyalty to the King. But it’s different for you and me as Christians because we are reborn by ties of grace and faith that are given to us by the King of kings. Americans enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We Christians know that life, that is real life, is not a right to claim but a gift to receive. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest.” (John10:10) Indeed, the Bible was written for that very purpose. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) God’s people also celebrate liberty as they believe and trust God’s amazing grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Freedom throughout our history has always come at the high cost of bloodshed. Our liberty from sin and death is far costlier because God’s Son had to lay down His life as a ransom for our sins. Our life and our liberty are eternal and complete. Our life and our liberty put us in the pursuit of something far greater than earthly happiness. We pursue love, a greater love for God and a greater love for others. The pursuit of love causes us to hunger for a greater knowledge of God. It moves us to worship and prayer. The pursuit of love causes us to reach out to others with the awesome news that Jesus died to save them. God turns us around from the empty pursuit of worldly living and death. It happens on “Dependence Day”, that time when the human soul is placed in the dependent state of God’s grace.
Dependence Day is when Baptism ushers in a new citizenship, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Even the helpless little child may belong to His kingdom. Jesus said it “belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16-17) Our problem often comes from the human tendency to “do it by myself”. It won’t work! You can’t be righteous enough. You can’t know enough. You can’t serve enough. You can’t pay a high enough price on your own. We depend on Christ!
Dependence Day was clearly marked on the calendar of the ages when Jesus went to the cross. Every time we cling to God’s grace through Christ, every time we go to the cross, or call out to Him for mercy and strength to help us in our time of need we make a bold “Declaration of Dependence” I can’t do it on my own! A year has now come and gone since I answered the call to be pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hudson, Wisconsin. I am more aware of the truth that our church can’t have the, “I’ll do it myself” attitude. That will stand in the way of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of love.” We're joinning together to declare today a Dependence Day.