Summary: In America we have freedom of choice, speech and religion
July 5, 2015
Independence Day 2015
Land of the Free
Opening words: This is the history of Independence Day. In June of 1776, a Virginian by the name of Richard Henry Lee proposed an American independence from England. The idea kept gaining support until the Second Continental Congress voted for independence from England on July 2, 1776. The group decided a document needed to explain their actions. A committee of five was selected; the chief writer was Thomas Jefferson. He submitted the document back to the Congress, who tweaked the wording. It was approved on the July 4, 1776. Richard Henry Lee became one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Copies were made, and the new nation embraced their independence. Because this Declaration of Independence was dated July 4, not July 2, it was viewed as our Independence Day. How are you celebrating this Independence Day?
We are instructed on this Independence Day weekend from the epistle to the Galatians. It was written by the Apostle Paul about the year A.D. 50. It was not written just to a single congregation, but to a variety of congregations in a single area. The issue that speaks clearly to us this morning is Old Testament Law. There were Jewish converts, who insisted that Old Testament law must still be observed and practiced. To be precise, the topic is circumcision. Paul understood clearly, that we are saved by grace, and not the law. Christ set us free from Old Testament law. With this understanding, let us hear this morning’s scripture lesson, Galatians 5:1-6. Let me call this message Land of the Free.
Galatians 5:1-6 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Everyone knows the name Elizabeth Taylor. She lived her life in the spotlight. She was born in a London suburb to American parents in 1932, so she had dual citizenship, the United States and Britain. At the age of twelve, she landed a part in the movie National Velvet. After that movie other movies came, Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Suddenly Last Summer. She won an Academy Award in 1960 for her part in Butterfield 8. She won a second Academy Award in 1966 for her role in the movie, Who is Afraid of Virginia Wolf. She became known for her glamorous lifestyle, beauty and her violet eyes. She had a great life, until she discovered the Golden Corrall, started designing bad jewelry and became friends with Michael Jackson and his chimp, Bubbles. Do you think we know too much about Elizabeth Taylor? This is something you may not know. Did you know that in 1965 Elizabeth Taylor signed a document renouncing her American citizenship? However, in 1977, she reapplied for American citizenship when she married her seventh husband, Senator John Warner. (Don’t forget she was married eight times.)
Would anyone here sign a document renouncing your American citizenship? Did you know in 2013, according to CNBC, a record 2,999 Americans gave up their citizenship? They say the number one reason people gave up their American citizenship was tax reasons. Can I give you some pastoral advice? Don’t do it. I have been to some amazing places in this world. I have been to Canada and Mexico. I have been to Haiti and the Philippines. I have been to Great Britain and France. I have been to Italy and Germany. I have been to Russia and Ukraine. I have been to Belarus and Holland. I have been to all those places. Each one was amazing, each one was different. However, they all have one thing in common. None of them can hold a candle to the United States. After each trip, I was ready to come home. I do not make that statement based on emotional patriotism, I make that statement based on fact. America is still the land of the free. I would love to know why Elizabeth Taylor renounced her American citizenship. She was too bright to do something so foolish.
I do not claim to be an expert on the US Constitution. However, I have seen it on display in Washington DC. It is moving to see it in person. I have a basic understanding of how it works. It is the supreme law of our land and set us apart from the rest of the world. Generally, it protects individual liberties, while it places limits on the role of the government. It has been called a living document because it is always changing. Did you know that since the Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended twenty-seven times? I do not have time to talk about all of our freedoms, but I do have time to talk about three. Those three have shaped us as a country. So if you are ready to begin, say, “Amen!”