3 Jul 2016
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her … and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.” (Isaiah 66:10, 14) In the name …
This coming Independence Day marks the 240th birthday of our country. This fact amazes me. There are so many ways that this could have failed. I think it’s obvious that it takes a lot of effort to bring different people together willingly and for mutual benefit. And it also requires trust. That’s why when I hear that right now 71% of Americans believe that the US economy is rigged in favour of certain groups I worry. If almost three-quarters of us do not believe any longer in the American dream of leading a better life, then trust begins to break apart. (http://fortune.com/2016/06/29/marketplace-edison-survey-rigged/) 75% of us right now are dissatisfied or angry with our national government, and almost half of us are upset at the two main choices we have for President. After England voted to leave the European Union last week, I started to hear about people in Texas and New Hampshire wanting to do the same from the United States. These may be small and isolated pockets, they may be more publicity stunt than serious, but when you have this much discontent and distrust in the population, there may be cause to worry in such things.
Differences persist and are growing today in America. The separation between the rich and the poor is widening and the number of people in the middle class is shrinking. This is going to mean that there will be segments of the population that never encounter each other and will have little hope of understanding each other. Another poll was released a few days ago and it showed that 78% of whites believe we will eventually have racial equality in our country, but among blacks that number drops to 50%. There’s a disconnect in the way we see ourselves. Both of these examples speak to us about separations of people. We speak of e pluribus unum, from the many one, but what happens to our United States if this starts to erode?
If there is this much economic, political and racial distrust and separation in our country right now, there may be cause to worry. This is why we have to take seriously celebrations like the Fourth of July as opportunities to remember why we first came together and why we should stay together. Our politicians and we who elect them are going to have to start thinking more openly about the dignity of compromise. That’s how we first came together in 1776 so I don’t know how it became so apparently un-American in 2016. Louis Brandeis became a Supreme Court Justice 100 years ago this year. He once said: “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” If there is a feeling that the economy is rigged, that the politicians don’t listen, that separation is something worrisome, then the solution begins with us. That’s why our Constitution before it starts talking about the legislative, executive and judicial, begins with those famous words: “We, the people …” Independence Day gives us the chance to remember “We, the people” are first and that we better take that priority seriously.
I remember visiting in a person’s home and hanging on their living room wall was a giant, black and white picture of that lone Chinese protestor who would not get out of the way of the tanks moving toward Tiananmen Square. “We, the people” becomes especially sacred when it’s absent. The other side of the coin though is that it can be taken for granted when it’s present. All of us here have lived our entire lives in a democracy, but I think back to Hodur and that first generation of our church and the fact that freedom surprised them. They were so impressed by freedom that they waited to dedicate their brand new church building until July 4th. They wanted to connect their religious freedom with the birth of freedom on Independence Day. That’s how much they cherished the liberty that maybe some of us take for granted. They saw it as a gift from God.
I mentioned last Sunday that Sharon and I went to Tanglewood to see one of the last Prairie Home Companion shows. A number of weeks back when I was listening to the program on the radio, Garrison Keillor mentioned in his Lake Wobegone story that paranoia is the privilege of the elderly. If the young were paranoid, he continued, they’d only fall in love with their own kind and that would lead to all kinds of genetic problems. So I’m going to try and not be paranoid about the news that I read and I hear. I’m going to try-on hope, and I’m going to hope that we Americans on this our 240th birthday can appreciate more our gift and our responsibility as “We, the people.”
Luke shares with us this morning a unique story. No other Evangelist tells anything like it. Out of the blue we hear about these 70 other disciples. They’re sent out in pairs to preach and to heal. They’re “sent out;” they’re by definition apostles. We don’t know where they come from. We don’t hear about them except in this one chapter. But there they are, 70 unmentioned followers of Jesus. This makes a lot more sense of the post-Easter story of the church. Without doing much of anything, there were already 120 believers in Jerusalem on Pentecost before anyone dared to say anything about the resurrection. What this hints at is that there were unnamed and forevermore anonymous followers of Jesus who were there, but whose names and stories never made it into print. That’s the way history works. The famous and the infamous are remembered, but it’s “We, the people” who together can make a difference. There’s that fundamental democracy in the Jesus story, and that’s the fundamental democracy that we need to appreciate again and even see as a gift from God, just as the organizers of our church did.
The Pilgrims long ago saw this land as the new Promised Land, the new Jerusalem. So with Independence Day in mind, let’s close by reading Isaiah’s words as our prayer for our United States: Let us rejoice with new Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all of us who love her … and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with His servants. May this be our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo