Independence Day and faithPublished 3:24pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014
By Rev. Bob Henderson
Some thoughts taken from an unknown author:
Only in America … can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance … do people order double cheeseburgers, a large fry and a DIET coke … do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters … do we buy hot dogs in packages of 10 and buns in packages of eight.
And, the list goes on – showing how funny and odd we are as a people, how we live in a country of such abundance and riches we can scarcely comprehend it.
Isn’t it odd in such a country of wealth and privilege, we are seeing a resurgence of old fashioned patriotism and flag waving, especially on Independence Day – the day when we look back to remember the heroes and heroines who made this country; the beliefs that have kept us great; the faith in our country and our Constitution that’s sustained us.
It took faith in the cause and faith in God’s call to declare independence from England. It took faith to commit lives, fortunes and sacred honor to a cause we now call freedom – but which at the time was treason. It took faith, to challenge the status quo and strike out into the new, uncharted, never-before-tried waters of independence.
It took a faith that went beyond belief – to action.
That’s the kind of faith we hear about in Hebrews 11:8-16. The author of Hebrews tells us Abraham had enough faith so that when God said, “Pack up everything you have, take your wives, servants, cattle, goats, tents and go,” Abraham went. Enough faith that Abraham continued to follow God’s seemingly crazy ways and commands throughout his life, even without really seeing any profit or return for his faith, except a promise.
Throughout the centuries that followed, men and women have followed in that same faith, continuing to follow God, acknowledging they were strangers and exiles on the earth, seeking a homeland.
Abraham, Noah, Moses, Aaron, Job – all were strangers to their contemporaries as they looked beyond the horizon, seeking a homeland. John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Joan of Arc, Juliana of Norwich, Thomas More and countless others were strangers to their peers, exiles in a land that did not know them, the depth of their faith or how earnestly they looked for and sought their homeland.
Many of us have traveled in foreign lands. We know how it feels to be the stranger, the “exile” in foreign lands. And, many of us look at these United States and think, how could anyone want any more than we have? How could anyone think this isn’t great? And, it is. But, it is not our homeland. God is our homeland.
No matter how patriotic we are, no matter how much we love our country – as we should – we must remember even though we live in these United States, it is not our homeland. As Christians, as followers of Christ, faith will always call us to be strangers and exiles in this and every earthly land.
That doesn’t mean we need to take the flag out of our churches or neglect our civil duties or fail to love our country. It means throughout it all we must remember and hold fast to the kind of faith Abraham had – a faith so strong we find ourselves strangers in a strange land, exiles in our own country or as Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon have called us: Resident Aliens.
We are Resident Aliens – our faith makes us so. Not “out of this world in some never-never land” aliens, but aliens who are involved members of this world, but at the same time never forget we are strangers, sojourners, travelers in a different world as well. Aliens who never forget our home is with God.
The great men and women of our country – Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Ross – had this vision and faith. Faith, beginning with God, which carried over into their faith and vision for this nation and its freedoms.
Now, we are a nation and a government that, despite its faults, still remains the bastion of freedom in the world, an example of right, truth and hope for the rest of the world and its people. A nation which is so different it seems to be an alien among other nations of the world, so attractive and desirable millions dream of living here.
I believe we as Christians are called to live as Abraham, Moses and all the patriarchs did: believing the promises of God; having faith that is ever ready to go and do whenever God calls; be what God calls us to be; and remain an example, not only of truth and right, but of hope, of care, of sacrifice for others.
We are called to be communities and people who are so different we may seem like aliens, but who in our differences are so attractive, so desirable, that others see and say, “Let me in; let me be a part; tell me about the promise, the faith, the vision.”
Our country and our community of faith are much alike. We may not all share exactly the same faith, but we share the same idea that faith in God and in the ideals of our country are connected, so much so we sometimes seem like aliens among others. May it always be so, on this Fourth of July and on those to come.
The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.