Tomorrow is the 238th birthday of the United States! And we are going to have a party! All across our nation we will have fireworks and cookouts and parties and parades. It is going ot be a wonderful time—just the kind you should have for a birthday party.
But will we remember what it is about?
One year shortly after we moved to Charleston the girls and I went down to Marion Square on the 4th for a celebration. As a part of the day, we heard the Declaration of Independence read—out loud, by a cast of performers. It was incredibly moving. It was the first time in my life that I had ever heard this important document. It may have been the first time I had ever even read it.
Have you? Have you ever gotten past those familiar first words?
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
Wonderful, poetic words! We hear them all the time! But have you ever gotten past them? If you have, then you know that this document that we celebrate tomorrow is an incredibly radical document—238 years later!
I will read it again tomorrow—it has become a tradition now, and give thanks for the courage and the fortitude of those forefathers (and mothers) who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
But I have to wonder about those of us who call ourselves Christians. Do we ever read the foundational documents of our faith? Do we ever get past “In the beginning…” or “For God so loved the world…” Do we realize what a radical thing it is to declare that “Jesus is Lord?”
Do we ever take the time to read the Sermon on the Mount? (Matthew 5-7) Or the story of the beginning of the church? (Acts 2:44-47) Or the instructions on how to live? (Colossians 3:1-17) Talk about radical words!
It has become so easy for us to just wave a flag on the 4th of July, to watch the fireworks and say “ooh and ahhh” and to get teary at the national anthem and to confuse that with patriotism. It is even easier to show up on Sunday and remember Sunday meals at Grandma’s, to recall that emotional experience at Youth Camp, to get all sentimental at Christmas and Easter.
It is a totally different thing to pledge your life, your fortune, your sacred honor. It is totally different to really live that Jesus is Lord.
Tomorrow I am going to celebrate and give thanks for the undeserved grace of being born in the United States. That is gift that few of us can really understand. I pray that I might be worthy of such a gift.
On Sunday I will be in worship—praying that I might be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
How about you? How will you celebrate this holiday weekend?