When Peter Marshall was chaplain of the United States Senate, he was one day asked, “How do you compose such eloquent prayers? Do you look at the country, and then pray for the senators?” And Peter Marshall said, “No. I look at the senators, and then pray for the country!”
On this July 4 holiday weekend, we celebrate our nation’s birthday, but we also need to continue to pray for our country, as our faith and cherished freedoms are intricately intertwined. We find God’s name on every coin and dollar bill in this country. Children in schools (at least for now) pledge allegiance to one nation under God. Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a preacher, whose salary has been paid by taxpayers since 1777. Presidents routinely end their speeches with a benediction, “And may God bless the United States of America.”
We are a nation born of a pilgrim’s dream, in which freedom of religion is a sacred right. Our Constitution, in effect, says that. The first Framers made sure to include that “We have been endowed by our Creator, with certain inalienable rights.” And then, the Bill of Rights spells out those rights that we have as human beings in the eyes of the Creator. Our government does not bestow rights upon us, -- God does. And that is the greatness of America.
Who came up with this revolutionary concept? It was Jesus who said, “Are not two sparrows bought for a penny? You are of more value than many sparrows. You are of great worth!” The Creator tells us who we are. The Creator gives us our worth. The Creator has bestowed rights upon us. The highest law of our land, the Constitution says that God tells us who we are. Our President is under God. Our Congress is under God. The Pentagon is under God. Even the IRS is under God.
Under God means also under the judgement of God. There is a divine reference point to which this nation is accountable. That is why Thomas Jefferson, on the eve of independence, and amidst the euphoria of freedom looked and saw a nation where half people were slaves and said, “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.” Sometimes, people will accuse Christians of trying to legislate morality. You bet we are! And so should everyone who cares for their neighbor. Laws exist to declare some activities just and fair, and some activities unjust and unfair. From July 4, 1776 up until the present time, the state has looked to the church for its moral leadership. In fact, Presbyterians were so involved in the Revolutionary War that in England it became known as “The Presbyterian Revolt.” And so, it should come as no surprise that 12 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterian, including the only minister, John Witherspoon.
And so on this July 4 weekend, let me close by encouraging you to participate in the most patriotic thing we can do. Let’s pray. Let’s pray for this country. Let’s pray for its protection, its benevolence, its compassion, and its future.
Hope to see for worship this Sunday, July 4. Once again, we will be in person outside at 8:00 am on the FLC lawn (inside the sanctuary if it rains). If you attend at 8:00 am, you will be able to sit in your car and listen via the FM transmitter on 102.1. At 10:30 am, we will be in the sanctuary, while also broadcasting on Zoom, Facebook Live, and Youtube.