Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Today is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence—the 4th of July—and it seemed appropriate to preach today on independence.

It may be a bit surprising but Christianity is big on independence at least in the beginning. Paul writes to the Galatians about the freedom they have in Christ—that God focuses on us whether we are circumcised (following a strict code) or uncircumcised.

In recent weeks we have heard Paul’s writings on the freedom we can claim if we will live in a new way, a way shown by the Holy Spirit. We who are Jews—the Law no longer pertains. We who are Gentiles—we have always been free of the Law—free to be independent within the umbrella of God’s love and we are not required to place ourselves under the Law.

When Jesus sends forth the 70 he demands that they be free of the encumbrances that the reasonable and prudent would carry with them. Take nothing extra—be independent of ‘stuff’ God will provide.

Believing that in this time in America is a challenge for many of us affected by the economic down turn—the Great Recession as they are calling it.

Yet Christians, yet believers in God in other traditions, are called to belief in hope. For the world has experienced far worse and the people have found their way through.

In many ways independence demands trust in a security which is beyond human control. Jesus offers the ultimate security—one which anyone can trust completely as the 70 find out. Often when we trust completely in Jesus’ promises, we are rewarded beyond our wildest expectations.

That was the experience of the 70 who found that not only could they subsist without the normal stuff one would take on a journey but that they could do major deeds of power.

And paradoxically we discover independence in the midst of community. And that is the case throughout our faith history.

Naaman would have gone away still suffering from leprosy had the community of his staff not urged him to do the simple thing of washing 7 times in the river Jordan. He does and returns home independent of the disease that was more and more taking away his control of his life.

The 70 discover their independent ministries in community—first as they travel and experience two by two and then in sharing their story with the others who were also sent out.

Paul urges the Galatian Christians to act in community so they might discover the true freedom of their new-found faith.

It is in community that we bear one another’s burdens, that we reach out to others to welcome them back into fellowship.

Sometimes what Jesus asks of us is pretty simple and yet we resist. We like Naaman the commander of the Syrian Army expect an involved complicated answers or requirements when Jesus calls us to simple actions.

Love God—that should be pretty simple; love one’s neighbor as we love ourselves—sometimes more of a challenge. Living into these 2 main demands of Jesus is the work of our spiritual lives—one that we can do together to achieve true independence.