We prepare to celebrate our Independence Day here in the United States. This is always an interesting weekend for a preacher. First, you wonder who will actually come to worship, especially since this will be our first really summerish weekend of the season. Second, you wonder how to honor the U.S. Holiday without conflating it with the Gospel.
We continue our summer series on The Good Life this weekend with the theme of Community. What is community? How can we live the good life that Jesus promised in the context of community? How does the good life of community relate to the American Dream (since it is on our minds this weekend)?
Here are some sketches that walk through my ideas for the sermon.
I wonder if there is a difference between The American Dream and The God Dream.
This conversation will be built upon the framework of three phases in human development: dependence, independence, interdependence. The human being is born a completely dependent creature. As she grows, she moves through adolescence and seeks independence from her care-givers and providers. This is a good, natural, and extremely painful process. Eventually, she realizes that no one is completely independent. She returns to her care-givers as an equal and humbly acknowledges their mutual interdependence.
This weekend we remember that 241 years ago the British colonists moved into adolescence and wrote these words,
“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.”
This was the colonists’ declaration of independence. It is upon this ethos that the American Dream was born. We still strive today for radical independence from anyone and anything.
Is this God’s dream for community?
Look at our texts for the weekend. Psalm 84:1-7, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 18:18-20. The Psalmist says it is good to dwell in God’s house. The Apostle encourages the Corinthians to live in peace. Agree with each other, he tells them, and the God of peace will dwell with you.
Then Jesus said that if two or three are gathered together IN MY NAME, there I will be in the midst of them.
In my name…
What does that mean?
To do something in someone’s name is to act in the way they would act; to represent them accurately.
How was Jesus present among the community?
- The creator God became the creature.
- The holy one hung out with the unholy.
- The one who knew no sin became sin so that the sinner could be set free from sin.
- The Living God died so that we might live.
“No one has greater love than this,” Jesus said, “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)”
God meets us, through Jesus, in the midst of our pain and mess to love us, forgive us, and empower us to love each other.
I read Richard Rohr’s Meditation this morning and it fit well.
When two or three are gathered together IN THE NAME (to be and do the previous sentence) then community happens and the Kingdom of God shakes the world.
God’s Dream is a declaration of interdependence.
Life is messy. We need grace. See my reflection on this earlier this week.
The Church is that place where we can gather together, in the name of Jesus, to be reminded of the Gospel, to experience confession and forgiveness in the physical act of bread, wine, and sharing the peace, and to be sent into our daily lives to love the world.
May we live in the interdependence of God’s community.