Sermon for Independence Day Sunday
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 3, 2016
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Galatians 6:1-10, 14-15
Sermon Theme: “’Sow’ What?”
(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff, Series C, Preaching Workbook; Online Christian Quotes from George Washington; Online Quotes from John Adams Historical Society; Online Quotes from Thomas Jefferson; Online LCMS Harrison Reacts to Supreme Court Abortion Clinic Ruling; Online LCMS Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty; LCMS Harrison’s Letter, “A Time to Act”; original ideas)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many, if not most, of our Lutheran ancestors came to America from Germany for religious freedom. In 19th Century Germany, the Prussian Union required that you belong to either the Roman Catholic Church or the generic Protestant Church, neither of which upheld the Biblical truths of the Lutheran Confessions.
For over 150 years, we have enjoyed and cherished the freedom of religion here in America. So much so, in fact, that we became complacent and detached from the reality of the shrinking of that freedom, most of which has occurred in recent years. This fact is not at all consistent with the vision of the Founding Fathers of our nation. So let me review the theological ground our first three great Presidents of the United States stood on.
Our first President, George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” He also said, “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” He left us with this advice: “Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do – then do it with all your strength.”
Believing that national morality could not be maintained without religious principle, President Washington gave this advice: “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ. It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favors.”
In the same vein, our second President, John Adams, said this, “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” He also said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Listen to that!
He went further than that and said, “Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell.” What did Adams mean by religion? Here’s how he answered that question: “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.”
The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was a Deist, and has sometimes been looked upon as an enemy of Christianity. But if you look at what he has said and written, what he says affirms his support of Christianity. Jefferson said, “I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrine of Jesus Christ.” He was always supportive of reading the Bible in the schools, and he uttered this very powerful statement: “The Bible is the source of liberty.”
How did Jefferson’s religious attitudes govern his leadership as the third President of the United States? He wrote, “Sir, no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can it. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man, and I as Chief Magistrate of this Nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”
Theologically, that’s where we were when this Nation was founded. Where are we today and why are we there? The President of our Synod, Dr. Matthew Harrison, has recently answered the first part of that question, and our sermon text from Paul’s letter to the Galatians answers the WHY.
For many years, while church groups, including ours, slept, Washington D.C. was spilling over with powerful lobbyists, — the auto industry, labor unions, Big Oil, Gay Rights, Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights Advocates, Abortion Advocates, Environmentalists, the National Rifle Association (gun rights), just to name a few.
Then a year ago, on March 3, 2015, our LCMS President sent out a letter to the churches, entitled, “A Time to Act.” The letter was introduced with these thoughts: “Nearly two centuries ago, those who would eventually form the LCMS came to the U.S. seeking the religious freedom guaranteed in our nation’s Constitution today. The religious freedom they sought is eroding amid continuous assault. That’s why the LCMS is establishing the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., the very epicenter of where a compelling Christian witness will be needed most in years to come.”
President Harrison sought donations throughout Synod to fund this new Lutheran Center for Christian Liberty, because there was no budget for it. I am guessing that a budget for this new Center will be approved at our Synod Convention coming up July 9 through July 14 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (July 9 is this Saturday). By the way, Dr. Harrison was re-elected as President in June, before the Convention would start.
Unless you have been living on a desert island, I don’t have to tell you all the things happening that have eroded our religious freedom. Strangely enough, Gay Marriage became the law of the land by one vote on the Supreme Court. This past Monday the High Court ruled against our Texas law protecting the health and safety of expectant mothers and their babies, and they ruled unanimously.
President Harrison’s response to Monday’s decision was this: “The United States Supreme Court ruled today that 58 million aborted babies is not enough. Our national sin of abortion now dwarfs the atrocities of the genocide of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, and the extermination of 20 million Christians by the Soviet Union.” Very powerful voice coming from our Synod.
In our sermon text for today from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul is essentially saying, “You must bear the burdens of each other, you must reap what you sow, and you must glory in the cross, not in self.”
“You must reap what you sow” is a wakeup call to Christians. We are complaining about our loss of religious freedom, yet since the 1990’s, while there has been higher and higher voter registration in the United States, there has been lower and lower voter turnout. The many Christians who have been a part of that lower voter turnout are like ostriches hiding their heads in the sand. Our Synod, probably as early as the 1960’s, dismantled our religious freedom office in Washington, and only in 2015 did we pull our heads out of the sand. Paul says, “You reap what you sow.” If you sow apathy, lack of commitment, ignorance of the world, noninvolvement in the world and in politics, you will reap the sinful crops sown by vigilant lobbyists, and other highly organized, powerful groups.
I think that as long as other people leave us Christians alone to worship as God calls us to, we have a tendency to go about our business saying “Sow what?,” that is “S-O-W” sow what?” Yet Paul says in our text, “Thus, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially those of the family of faith.” This is a call to do good to our brother and sister Christians but it goes much further; we are to pursue what is good for all people.”
Staying out of the fray and keeping our heads buried in the sand will never accomplish what is good for all people. The gospel that Jesus suffered and died for the redemption of all people, that He brings forgiveness of sins and abundant life is the greatest truth mankind will ever hear. But without religious freedom, they won’t hear it; the seed won’t be planted.
Sow what? Sow the seed of God’s Word everywhere. God forgives us for our apathy, but He also calls us again to action. President John Adams once said, “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost, is lost forever.” And remember what President Thomas Jefferson said, “The Bible is the source of liberty.”
Sow what? Keep up with what’s going on in the world. Participate in the political process. Vote. Donate money to the Lutheran Center of Christian Liberty. Read and hear what our national leaders say. Speak out, stand up for the truth. Keep the faith, bear the burdens of each other, and glory in the cross. Amen.