Summary: Independent from England--Now dependent upon God
Sermon for the 4th of July 2016
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!
Tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July—Independence Day—Freedom from the rule of England! Out of this freedom came our constitution and the bill of rights formed in 1789.
I thought it might be interesting—at least to me—and different if we take a brief look at how this freedom from England affects our lives today, especially in regards to the church.
I bet you never thought you would hear part of the constitution read from the pulpit, but the first amendment of the constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Yet it wasn’t until 1947 that the modern separation of Church and State was created by the Supreme Court. This ruling prohibits any federal, state or local government preference or support for religion. It basically eliminates religion from the public square.
How did we get to this point and again what does it mean for us today as so-called Christians?
Sure in earthly terms we are supposedly an independent people, but in heavenly terms we are dependent upon a different type of government.
Today in the Scriptures we also celebrate Independence Day—Freedom from the rule of sin—However we now become dependent upon God. Two types of freedom.
Two types of Kingdoms (Earthly and Heavenly). Yet both are acquired through commitment, sacrifice and blood.
Do the two have anything in common? As a Christian what do I do with my emotions and feelings that I have for some of the most touching and crucial issues that exist in our world today?
What do I say and do as a Christian when it comes to the war in Middle East and the terrorism associated? What do I say and do as a Christian when it comes to abortion, assisted suicide, the death penalty, gay marriages and immigration? Are we to separate these two kingdoms or put them together?
Today I thought it might be interesting—at least to me—if we took a look at how Christianity has evolved in viewing their role in relating to the secular world and especially how Lutherans have come to understand their relationship between the church and the real world, between the church and state, between the kingdom of earth and the kingdom of God.
The earliest Christians due to the writings of some of first Christian Fathers, some of whom you may never heard of, such as Origen and Polycarp of the 2nd century claimed that Christians should not hold any public office.
Remember this is a new religion according to the state and the earliest Christians were dying for their faith. Therefore they claimed that followers of Jesus should and must simply withdraw from public service offering up their prayers instead of their bodies.
Once we come to the time Saint Augustine (400CE), Christianity is in full bloom. It is now a national religion ordered by the emperor Constantine in 313AD.
So now if one thought the role of a Christian was to withdraw from the world, guess what, if we withdrew there would be no one run and maintain the cities.
So it is understandable that at this point Christians began to think of themselves as members of two kingdoms. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Earth. Augustine goes on to say that we obey the government if and only if the government is one that honors God.
Interesting uh? In the first 400 years of Christianity we have two extremes of how the followers of Christ are supposed to relate the world around them. One—withdraw. Two—make the state the church.
Throughout history what seems to happen is we try to make Jesus fit into world, instead of the other way around. After all Jesus came into the world and he came into this world “to let the oppressed go free.”
Well, about 1000 years later, Martin Luther, who was a big fan of Augustine, realizes that the effects of sin are too great and one will never have an earthly government that worships the one true God. Still he defends the need for government in the same manner as Paul.
The government Luther claims as well as the church is of divine origin and that Christians have both the right and the duty to hold office under the state, even, he says to the extent of serving as executioner if the need arises.
Luther divides humankind into two categories. We all belong to the kingdom of the world. Some of us also belong to the kingdom of God. (Do you?)