Proper 8A; Independence Day Weekend
I have come to set son against father, mother against daughter, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, son-in-law against father-in-law. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
These were the words spoken by Jesus in last week's gospel. And if you recall, I said this wasn't because Jesus himself came to cause strife, but that when we choose to follow Christ, to love God and neighbor, to include rather than exclude, there will be people who cannot tolerate those words and actions, and strife will ensue.
We can find examples of this all through Scripture if we are willing to accept that God longs for all people to be with him, and if we are willing to defeat our own biases and hatreds. Do not mistreat the foreigner. Care for widows and orphans. Shelter the homeless. There is no more male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek, for all are one in God. If you don't love those whom you can see, you can't love God whom you can't see. And the list goes on. When we live, or attempt to live, into the ideals of God, there will be strife.
I say this because it is not very often that church and state should intersect or form a partnership. The American flag should not be part of our worship, for we need to remember who and what we are really worshiping. Flag-draped altars, “American Jesus,” and the rise of Christian Nationalism should worry you.
That said, if there is any time when church and state intersect, it is today, or this weekend.
The Collect for July 4 mentions the Founding Fathers winning liberty for themselves and us, and lighting the torch of freedom for nations then unborn. They wrote that all men are created equal, endowed with unalienable rights for Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. The Pledge of Allegiance ends, “with liberty and justice for all.”
At the heart of our country is an ideal in which all people, not just men, and not just white men, are created equal. We proclaim a truth that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and happiness. We advocate that all people receive equal justice. And we, as a nation, are an example of how life can be.
Love God. Love your neighbor. All people are created equal. All people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is where church and state can and should intersect.
Instead, we find ourselves in a world where unifying love is pushed aside for divisive hate. We find ourselves in a world where equal rights are continually threatened and revoked due to skin color, gender, sexuality, or country of origin. We find ourselves in a world where the pursuit of happiness is revoked for the need to pursue enough for food and shelter. We find ourselves in a world where justice isn't the goal, but winning at all costs is.
Notice how the intersection of church and state works. When these two institutions come together to maintain the status quo, protect the system, and use laws and precepts to maintain power, the result is slavery, oppression, injustice, and validation of hateful behavior. But when these two institutions come together for the benefit of all its people and to draw ALL people into God's loving embrace, the result is a healthy population that understands rights and equality for you doesn't threaten me.
However, we can also see very clearly that living into the ideals of this country and/or the ideals of Holy Scripture are threatening to many people. I don't need to list off those things in our history or that we see today for you to know this. You know.
This is, unfortunately, a battle that we must continue to fight and continue to push and continue to speak out for in an effort to ensure all people are treated equally, all people receive justice, and all people are seen as children of God.
History has taught us that the union of church and state is almost always a very bad thing, and is something we must be always on guard to protect us and others from the inevitable abuses that result.
With that in mind, however, there are times when the intersection of church and state can be a very good thing; and living into the ideals of our country and our faith is one of those times.
First, a statement: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, endowed with unalienable rights for Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
And now a question for you to answer: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I pray that THIS is the intersection of church and state which will come to pass.