This service has been filmed during the period we are worshipping online only while our building undergoes repairs needed following storm damage. During this period and due to equipment limitations, we are unable to hold a complete worship service.


Let Freedom Ring

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*This morning’s scriptures are Jeremiah 17:9-10, Hebrews 8:7-13, Matthew 10:40-42, and Matthew 22:36-40, and come from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Other scriptures may also be used and will be cited within the message.

“Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning. Let the weak be strong. Let the right be wrong. Roll the stone away. Let the guilty pay. It’s Independence Day.”  

That chorus from the Martina McBride Song, Independence Day, written by Gretchen Peters, started playing on an endless loop in my head Thursday and grew louder on Friday.

In two days, this nation will celebrate its own Independence Day … I thought it might be worthwhile to remember how that came to be …

“In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have them connected with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Independence Day almost 250 years ago, truths our founding fathers found to be “self-evident” and God given … that all are created equal and all have the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

As a nation, we have never managed to fulfill those lofty goals and a number of Supreme Court decisions over the last several years have begun to chip away at or totally eliminated the rights of some. And, per their own words, they’re not done.

Let freedom ring. Let the white dove sing …

Amos 5:12-15 says, “For I know your manifold transgressions nd your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” 

Amos goes on in verses 18-24, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!  For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him! Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.

Our passage from Jeremiah reminds us that God is the only Judge and that God searches the heart and examines the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.

And yet, our highest human court has passed judgments that reduce voting rights, women’s rights, eliminated affirmative action, denied student loan debt relief that would have helped lower income borrowers, and made discrimination legal as long as you can justify it under free speech and “deeply held religious beliefs.”

The passage from Hebrews tells us of the New Covenant made with us through Christ, a covenant not only prophesied in Jeremiah 31, but a covenant that renders the Old Testament covenant obsolete.  Matthew 22 gives us the laws of the New Covenant clearly – Love God with everything you’ve got and love one another as you are loved. Period. Everything old hangs on your ability to keep those two commandments.

Not one of the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court this past week keep those commandments. When you take rights away from anyone, you are not showing your love for them. You are showing your disregard, disrespect, and disdain.

Let freedom ring. Let the White Dove sing.

Matthew 10 speaks to us of hospitality … of the importance of hospitality even to strangers. Strangers then meant foreigners. Strangers today still means foreigners, but in this melting pot we, as a nation built of both indigenous people and immigrants, stranger means much more. It means refugees, people of other beliefs, people who identify differently.

But our human high court has decided that not everyone is worthy of hospitality, not everyone is equal, not everyone deserves access or the right to a quality life, true freedom, or actual happiness.

Father Richard Rohr understands the heart of Christianity as God’s loving solidarity with all people and with reality itself:

“Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syrophoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness.

If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself. 

Transgender priest Shannon Kearns provides an example of God’s inclusive solidarity with eunuchs, sexual minorities in the time of the prophet Isaiah:

In Isaiah 56:3b–5 … the prophet says, “And don’t let the eunuch say, ‘I’m just a dry tree.’ The Lord says: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, choose what I desire, and remain loyal to my covenant. In my temple and courts, I will give them a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give to them an enduring name that won’t be removed.” 

It’s a word of comfort and hope. A word of healing…. Eunuchs are told they will be given an enduring legacy. This piece about being given an “enduring name” rings loudly for many transgender and nonbinary people, especially the ones who have claimed new names…. This also rings loudly for the many people who have felt excluded and cut off from entry into religious spaces because of their gender diversity.… 

The message of the eunuchs is that the boxes don’t work. They aren’t fit to live in. They will likely kill us if we stay there. The freedom to move between spaces and worlds, the freedom to claim all of who we are, the freedom to be is what we are called to. The message of the eunuchs also calls us to look around and ask: Who is being excluded? Who is not welcome? Who is there no space for? That list of people and those names that come to your mind? The message in Isaiah 56 and from the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 says, “There is space for them in the kingdom of God, too.”… They don’t need to change to be worthy; they are made worthy by wanting to be included. 

Anyone who desires the water is welcome.”

 Isaiah was an Old Testament prophet and I shared that because, almost every single time, those who support, vote to legislate, advocate for, and render opinions that marginalize or dehumanize others … do so quoting some passage from the Old Testament. Just not the Old Testament passages that have been shared with you today. They are prone to avoid those passages.     

It is so easy right now to lose hope. People are fleeing states that have passed horrific “slate of hate laws.” Those who are unable to flee quickly are fearing for themselves, their families, even their lives.

Not one of the “slate of hate” laws passed in numerous states reflects any level of Christian hospitality. Not one. And yet … the advocates, lobbyists, legislators, and governors passing these laws are claiming them in the name of God and of Christ.

John Newton, writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” was converted as a slave trader. While at sea in the middle of a violent storm, he prayed for God’s mercy. The storm calmed, and he reached port. Newton then began reading the Bible and avoided drinking, gambling, and profanity. In time he realized the slave trade was evil and gave up his participation in it. He was eventually ordained a priest in the Church of England.

While explaining the concept of “grace” to the Romans, Paul posed the question: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

In Greek, the word for grace is charis, which means a gracious favor or benefit. The law came through Moses, and grace and truth came through Christ (see John 1:17). and this grace and truth shows us that the sum and substance of the law is love.

When an expert in the law asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . . And . . . ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37-39, NIV).

Through reading scriptures such as this, Newton must have realized he could not continue to trade slaves. While the law of the land did not prohibit slavery, the law of love, which Jesus taught, did not allow it. How can you enslave someone whom you love? In time, Newton disavowed his association with the demonic slave trade and became an abolitionist. In appreciation for God’s grace and firmly holding to the promise that no sin is too great to be forgiven, Newton changed his life. So can we.

 And, today, just as Stranger has a broader meaning than simply someone not from your tribe, “slavery” comes in many forms. Many states use their prison systems as a source of free labor for the state or that can be leased by private corporations. Forced birth in any circumstance and child marriages make slaves of women’s bodies. Discrimination combined with anti-gender affirming care bans and forced de-transitioning enslave the LGBTQ in the closets they have worked so hard to break out of. And the push to enforce ultra-conservative religious values through legislation enslaves anyone who doesn’t believe the way those pushing the legislation do by forcing beliefs on them.

We, as a nation, are guilty of not welcoming strangers and of once again becoming a nation of slaves and slave holders.

Dorothy Day said, “A custom existed among the first generations of Christians, when faith was a bright fire that warmed more than those who kept it burning.

In every house then a room was kept ready for any stranger who might ask for shelter; it was even called “the stranger’s room.”

Not because these people thought they could trace something of someone they loved in the stranger who used it, not because the man or woman to whom they gave shelter reminded them of Christ, but because — plain and simple and stupendous fact — he or she was Christ.”

Love one another as you are loved.

We have choices. We can choose to ignore things that don’t directly impact us. We can choose to simply accept the on-going stripping of rights and freedoms in silence.

Or, we can choose to live into that name we give ourselves – Christian. Little Christ. We can choose to follow The Way of the Cross. We can choose to follow Christ and what Christ taught us. We can each find the way we can, as Fr. Rohr said, “stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else.”

We can choose to be of one mind, one spirit, united in spite of those who work so diligently to divide us. We can break chains of oppression shackling and enslaving our brothers and sisters. We

We can choose to, as the song goes, “Let freedom ring. Let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning … it’s Independence Day.”

We can, by following Christ, be the reckoning.

Let’s pray:

Merciful God,

We confess that, though we claim to love you, our lives do not always reflect that love. We offer hospitality out of obligation instead of love, out of care for our own well-being instead of that of others. We hesitate to welcome others out of fear of rejection instead of extending compassion as the fruit of your love for us. In our relationships at work, home, and even church, too often we choose expediency instead of integrity, believing the ends justify the means. Help us, we pray. Free us to live as your children who welcome, nurture, and love our neighbors as we learn to grow as disciples of Christ.

On this day, O Lord, we worship as one family, we drink from the same Spirit, we have one baptism, we have one faith. For this family, which you hold so dear, there are no barriers, no nationalities, no race or tongue, and no culture that could separate us. You invite all your children, women, men, young, and old to celebrate our unity and to announce your great sacrifice.

Help us, O Lord, to extend your invitation to all your children to gather at your table to quench their hunger and thirst for justice.

We pray in your holy name.



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