From Fireworks to Faith

Happy birthday, friends, tomorrow’s the 4th of July! 235 years of freedom and faith, faith and fireworks. To reprise a phrase from Paul, “What then can we say to all of this?” Well, among other things, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Take, O let’s see… take Congress, for example. I give you John Adams (drawn from his personal letters) … in the 2nd Continental Congress, 1776. (1 full year after Lexington & Concord). It’s a holiday. So let’s all go to the movies! … CLIP… 2 minutes: 1776… (A) 3 or more a congress; (B) “Piddle, Twiddle. …Ahh, among our freedoms, that day to this, the privilege/the freedom to fuss about all things, but especially government things: our original national pastime. Yet still we believe: ‘no place on earth we’d rather be! Amen? Amen!

There is, however, another and even greater freedom in which to rejoice. It is not declared by Congress, but by Christ himself. “Good news to the poor, release to the captive, sight to the blind, liberty to those oppressed. The acceptable year of the Lord.” And all that, “fulfilled in our hearing” in Jesus Christ. Fireworks are great. Freedom is greater. And Jesus is and offers the greatest freedom of all. You see, our Jesus offers us the freedom to embrace his very own mission. To make earth like Heaven. To throw off every petty king and lesser kingdom. To reject every rule that is not God’s rule, and every ruler that is not God. ‘Not that Jesus wanted to govern, mind you, or confuse faith with the federalism of any age or place, even our own. No, Jesus is simply and unimaginably deeply committed to break the power of cancelled sin and set us sinners free! And when he crucified sin on the cross and shattered death from the tomb, he left us with a plan to carry on the mission. Here’s the plan he left us with. “You are the salt of the earth. You are to give God’s whole creation here its flavor. So don’t ever lose your saltiness. You are to keep the earth from going bad, rotting, so never lose your preserving strength! You are the light of the world. Be like a shining city set on a hill. You can’t hide a thing like that! Never be so foolish as to hide your light under the table. Instead, light every corner of your house. Let your light shine so brightly, everyone all over will see your good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.”

Now confession is good for the soul. So let’s own up. Yes, John Robinson, pastor to the pilgrims at Delft Haven did stand on the dock and promise that brave, tiny band, “God has more light yet to break forth from his holy word.” Jonathan Winthrop did challenge that same Mayflower family to build its own version of “a shining city on a hill,” as Jesus said. But then those folks by themselves were 11 years too late to found the nation-we-know. Jamestown 1st, don’t you know! Complete with the 1st European women, tobacco and slaves, many moons before the Pawtuxet Indians (way longer here) missed their chance to station their customs and immigration agents at Plymouth Rock! Other boats came too. ‘Sad, sin boats… holds full of souls in chains. Still more ships later, from China and Saipan, Ireland and Europe, West and East. And, they’re still walking, crawling, leaping, tunneling and smuggling in, just to get a piece of whatever their version of America-the-Dream. Not everybody’s into Jesus’ mission or the Pilgrim promise. ‘Never have been. In 1776, only 1 in 10 were church folks; we’re still just 1 in 3. Many signers of Jefferson’s declaration were Deists, believers yes, but not in the way we hold tight to Christ. Thank God, literally, we sing our vision of alabaster cities gleaming, undimmed by human tears. But few of us have seen them. Nevertheless, what blesses us uniquely as a people is this vision, this mission-on-the-loose, to be better than we are and more what we were meant to be. And for those of us who cling to Jesus, there’s a clear picture of what this look is like, drawn by Christ himself. It’s ancient, and it’s future; now, and not yet.

Consider Jefferson and Jesus talking to each other…

Jefferson writes Jesus promises
We are equal: creations of God. God has chosen him & his way for us!
Life, liberty & happiness are for us. Good news bending t’ward the poor.
Tyranny refuses good, wearies & strikes down representation. Release to the captive.
Tyranny obstructs welcome and hides justice: by force! Restored sight with holy light.
Tyranny makes might right and promises empty peace. Liberty to those oppressed, peace beyond understanding.
Tyranny makes well-being, safety & hope: memories! The acceptable year of the Lord is now, is heard, is him!

 

Dear, dear friends… in this good land of great ideas, bedrock ideals and earnest striving for better tomorrows, anyone can and everyone should light fireworks. Whoop it up. It’s our birthday! But we believers have a deeper, brighter cause for celebration. Ours the vision, ours the mission… of Faith Works. Faith Works OVER Fire Works! We are to hold the Vision of Christ before one another and even the nation. We’re to be the example, the willing witness… the light that shines so everyone may see and give God the glory… on earth as in heaven!

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