SERMON ~ 07/03/2022 ~ “Freedom and Responsibility”

07/03/2022 ~ Fourth Sunday after Pentecost ~ Proper 9 ~ Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-9; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 ~ Heritage Sunday – a Service of Worship Celebrated at the Old Meeting House ~ Communion Celebrated ~ VIDEO OF FULL SERVICE:

Freedom and Responsibility

“…Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place the Rabbi intended to visit….” — Luke 10:1

I do not remember the exact date the letter arrived. I do know it was the first week of November, 1967. I was 19.

Those of a certain age will be familiar with the opening words in the letter and what they meant. (Slight pause.) “Greetings from the President of the United States.” (Slight pause.)

For those a little younger, this letter meant I was being drafted into the Armed Forces of these United States. This was my draft notice.

The letter had one other piece of news. The date set for my induction was December the 5th, my mother’s 44th birthday— Happy Birthday, Mom. (Slight pause.)

At the time I was working at a large corporation. I gave two weeks notice. To my surprise that afternoon my boss told me the company was acting on my behalf to get my draft notice postponed. They wanted to buy time for me to train someone to do my job.

They had not asked my permission to intervene. They just did it— a life lesson for me in real world power. I went along because I did not want to be inducted on my Mom’s birthday.

Within days I got a second draft notice for January 20th, 1968— being drafted the only time I ever won the lottery. Well, on January 20th, 1968 I was off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Basic Training, then on to Fort Lee, Virginia, for Advanced Training.

I can’t forget the next significant date in this sequence. 54 years ago tomorrow— July 4th, 1968— I arrived in Vietnam— Happy Independence Day. (Long pause.)

In the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence the inhabitants of the 13 colonies are referred to as (quote) “subjects.” But then, amazingly, Jefferson wiped the word “subjects” out of the text and changed the word from “subjects” to “citizens.”

As “citizens”— no longer subjects— we became and are a people whose allegiance is to one another, not to some king. [1] I believe from that point forward as a nation we have been bound to one another in mutual covenant— citizens not subjects.

When it comes to being drafted in that tumultuous time, as a citizen, as someone designated by chance, tradition, law, age to serve, I felt I had a responsibility to others. I felt I needed to be responsible to all the other citizens in America.

Put another way, real freedom— real freedom— is found in the collective. Therefore and paradoxically, real freedom for an individual depends on the responsibility assumed by each individual to the collective, to each other. (Pause.)

These words are from Luke: “…Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place the Rabbi intended to visit….” (Slight pause.)

Luke here addresses how the Good News spreads. When it comes to spreading the Good News we need to heed not the details but the principles in this passage. In this case I think the first principle laid out is mutual responsibility.

The disciples are sent out in pairs. By definition this creates mutual responsibility. So perhaps next we need to ask what is it which binds them in this mutual covenant?

This is the message Jesus asks them to proclaim: “the reign of God has drawn near.” What does that mean— the reign of God drawing near? I think it’s an understanding of the reality that God is present with us, walks with us, empowers us— now.

And because of the mutuality with, support of and from, the reliance on other disciples, they get it! They see working together is a key to the reality that God is present with us, walks with us, empowers us— now. They see God at work in one another.

So next we need to ask how are the disciples led to an understanding of this mutuality? Jesus invites them to take nothing for their journey— not a walking stick, a knapsack, sandals. Here’s a way to put that in modern language: simplify your lives.

In this simplification they realize how much they need to rely on each other. And since they go out two by two, they come to a better understanding of reliance.

Indeed, given this mutual reliance, this seems clear to me: no one individual has the key or is in charge or has any formula. No one individual can alone fix everything. Put another way, no one is God except God.

And so they go out two by two, embrace the humility found in communal responsibility. In this acceptance living community is formed. (Slight pause.)

I need to say one very important thing about this Gospel we know as Luke. That the reign of God has drawn near is one of the overall themes of the Gospel. I want to suggest this reign of God has something to do with the freedom granted by God.

I also want to suggest this freedom has something to do with the humility found in accepting communal responsibility to and with one another. And that brings us back to this two by two concept. Jesus is focused on the centrality of community in proclaiming the realm of God. (Very long pause.)

Many feel the opening words of the Declaration of Independence about equality, life, liberty, the pursuit are the most important words in the document. And these days we tend to take those words personally, as if they were about each individual, about ach one of us individually.

However, I believe for the signers of the document who lived through those tumultuous times some words towards the end of the Declaration are at least equally important. (Quote): “…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” (Slight pause.)

“…we mutually pledge…” The signers of the Declaration accepted, indeed, embraced communal responsibility. (Slight pause.)

No individual on their own is up to the task of forming community. Being a lone ranger works only in the movies. We need to rely on one another, be in covenant with one another to see the full reality of freedom and its gifts.

As people who seek the freedom promised by the reign of God we must work toward and in community. And for Christians community does not mean just those you know. For Christians community means everyone, all people who on earth do dwell.

So, perhaps the way we need to think about freedom on this Independence Day is that it is really “Interdependence Day,” a day on which we rely on one another with mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Living in community is sacred. Amen.

Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell, Maine

ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Benediction. This, then, is a précis of what the pastor said before the blessing:
“Before he won the Nobel Peace Prize I once had the privilege and honor of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This quote is from Desmond’s vast wealth of theological sensibility. ‘…my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.’ I do believe that quote says something about Christian community.”

BENEDICTION: Let us place our trust in God. Let us go from this place to share this Good News: by God we are blessed; in Jesus, the Christ, the beloved of God, we are made whole. Let us depart in confidence and joy that the Spirit of God is with us and let us carry this reality in our hearts: God is faithful. Amen.

[1] The Washington Post; Jefferson Changed ‘Subjects’ to ‘Citizens’ in Declaration of Independence; By Marc Kaufman; 07/03/2010

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