Year C Proper 9 Luke 10
Liberty and Civility
Galatians 5:1, 13-25

The United States of America is 234 years old today. That's a long time for a nation to remain free. But, when you look at our history in the context of world history America is just a CHILD among the nations. Egypt, China, Japan, Rome, Greece all make America's history seem so short. Consider what a brief time we've really been here as a nation: When Thomas Jefferson died, Abraham Lincoln was a young man of 17. When Lincoln was assassinated, Woodrow Wilson was a boy of 8. By the time Woodrow Wilson died Ronald Reagan, who died a few years ago, was a boy of 12.

There you have it. The lives of four men can take you all the way back to the beginning of our country, 234 years ago. We are so young. And yet we stand tall among these nations because of the principles on which we were established: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thus begins the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today. And do not let anyone fool you. Freedom ought and need be celebrated. So many churches and ministers today loathe patriotism in the pulpit. I am not one of those. I celebrate today with you the freedoms which God has blessed this great nations of ours. Now I cannot tell you whether God has blessed us with liberty and therefore we are free or we have wisely and simply built our liberty based on biblical principles. In any case our freedom is from God.

Now let me temper our celebrations with a caution: With freedom comes great responsibility. We are not free to live excessive lives. We are not set at liberty to pursue selfish ends. Our independence should not make us infidels. As Paul so eloquently puts it: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature."

What is true for the church is true for the nation: Liberty demands civility. Freedom requires righteous behavior. On this July 4th let's celebrate Freedom and Civility.

  1. First Let's Celebrate Freedom
  2. Second Let's Celebrate Civility.

In Prayer's Way
Luke 10:1-11; 16-20

Who is our newest parent here this morning? . . . How old is your baby? May I hold him/her? Let's bow our heads and offer a prayer of blessing for this child . . .

This little baby is embarking on a journey. And it's an awesome journey to be a part of. All new parents here - is there anything as exciting as watching your baby go from a snuggly little lump you cradle in your arms to a roller, then a crawler, then a "cruiser," and finally a walker?

Babies seem absolutely driven to get on their feet. No matter how many times they tumble and topple, crash and burn, bump and bruise, babies in the "cruiser" stage keep letting go with their hands and start moving their feet. Standing upright, walking and running with a straight back and straight legs — those are the marks of the human being. It is this posture that sets us apart from all other living creatures on earth.

Or is it?

There is another position that reveals even more about the uniqueness of being human. Standing up defines our most remarkable physical gift. Kneeling down reveals our most miraculous spiritual gift.

If you're a disciple of Jesus, to move up, move down. The future is on our knees. The future is knee-deep. The future is bottoms up. We don't know when we're stretching on our tip-toes. We know on our knees. The depths are knee-deep. And we're weak in the knees.

Repeat after me: insects crawl [response: insects crawl]; fish swim [response: fish swim]; birds fly [response: birds fly]; humans pray [response: humans pray]. Let's do that again: Praying, with body, heart, mind, and soul, is the hallmark of humanity. So why is it that although we spend just one year learning how to stand on our own two feet, it can take us a lifetime to learn how to get back down on our knees?

Almost all churches used to hold weekly "prayer meetings" — a time set aside, not for a sermon, not for singing, not for announcements, but a time just for prayer. A time to be down on our knees, head bowed, heart open, listening for the "still, small voice" and sometimes hearing the thunder roll.

What kind of "meetings" do we hold now? We've given up our "prayer meetings" for planning meetings and committee meetings: strategic planning meetings, long-range-planning meetings, curriculum meetings, worship planning meetings, budget meetings, mission and outreach meetings.

In the traditional Quaker "meeting," prayer time was silent — each soul a quietly opened door, each spirit tuned to a frequency that didn't register in the human ear.

In other traditions prayer time is when "the thunder rolls." During prayer time in Korean churches, called tongsong kido, the thousands of gathered worshipers pray simultaneously out loud — but not the same prayer. The sound of all those voices, all those prayers, flowing out into the sanctuary seem to physically fill the air with prayer. In those congregations the prayer you breathe out will not be the same prayer you breathe back in. Respiration brings transformation.

Maybe the church today needs a conversion... presents Leonard Sweet