Lee Harder, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, wishing you a wonderful and safe 4th of July.
This week’s vlog is a little different in that I have been encouraged to do a version of a sermon I gave on Independence Day a few years ago. Considering where our nation seems to be headed as of late, maybe it would be a good idea to remind us of our roots as a nation. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
I know this, our nation was most certainly founded as one subject to God’s rule and authority despite efforts to re-write history to say something else. Any doubt as to the Judeo-Christian heritage that marks this nation’s discovery & colonization must be dispelled with a clear picture of those who first set foot on the American continent.
Take Jamestown, Virginia, founded in 1607 as led by Captain John Smith who established this first English settlement. He recorded in his journal that one of the first structures built was a church, a sail stretched between trees and a bar of wood nailed to two trees as a pulpit. The Rev. Robert Hunt gathered these settlers and declared, “The Lord is in His Temple; Let all the earth keep silence before him” taken from the book of Habakkuk. He then prayed, “Almighty God, . . . we beseech Thee to bless us and this plantation which we and our nation have begun in Thy fear and for Thy glory . . . and seeing, Lord, the highest end of our plantation here is to set up the standard and display the banner of Jesus Christ, even here where Satan’s throne is….Lord, sanctify our spirits & give us holy hearts, that so we may be Thy instruments in this most glorious work.”
If that isn’t enough, try the Mayflower Compact written in 1620 which declares, “In the name of God. Amen. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves into a civil body politick …”
Those people that risked everything to cross the sea in search of a new land, a new home, did so trusting in God above all. We founded colonies, communities, states where our culture, our governance, our morals and ethics were all ground in our belief as Christians. When it came time to move from a colony of some distant nation to a nation of our own, still, our dependence to God prevailed.
The United States, became an experiment in democracy for the ages, under the authority of God. When our nation could no longer tolerate rule without representation, it chose to stand on democratic principles as a nation under God. Consider the opening statements in the document that laid the foundation for this nation — the Declaration of Independence. Read in the Congress, July 4, 1776 as the unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America, it begins: “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.” Jefferson, in the Declaration, wrote that liberty was a gift of God and an “unalienable right” to be secured by government. One of those liberties, according to Washington, was the right to worship God, a “right” not only among the choicest of [our] blessings, but also of [our] rights.”
As this soon to be new nation struggled with its governing documents, Dr. Ben Franklin not only called for prayer during deliberation on the Constitution, but also later stated that he had “so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence, that [he could] hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance [as the Constitution] to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent and beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”
During this same Constituting Convention, its president George Washington declared that the “event is in the hands of God.” Later, in his Farewell Address of 1796 he also said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports … Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” By the way, this address was annually read in Congress for decades and printed in schoolbooks, just not now in our own time. Revealing, isn’t it, about what’s happening to us as a people and a nation?
John Adams, our second president, wrote “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He saw that our Constitution would not work unless we retained moral and religious principles. If he were here today, I suspect he would be among the first to question political candidates on their moral and religious views of God’s sovereignty over the government. If a presidential candidate, one running for office in the House or Senate, does not clearly understand that God is the source of liberty, they will not protect those liberties from intrusive bureaucracy and cultural popularity.
Our nation has been blessed by God. If ever there was a land flowing with milk and honey, it is this beloved America. Yet, it is not a gift that we dare take for granted — Not it riches — Not its beauty — Not its freedom and liberty. More important is our need to acknowledge the author of this blessing called America and its democracy. It is not a political party, any party. It is not any individual or social standard. As with our founding fathers, it is God alone.
If we abandon divine Providence, God, we may discover to our shame that He will abandon us by withholding His blessing. An America devoid of God cannot exist. Democracy’s beacon will dim, flicker and die, overwhelmed by the darkness that seeks any opportunity to prevail over it. It has happened throughout Scripture to God’s chosen people, Israel, and it can happen to us. The promised land was taken from them or they were taken from the land by God in His great anger over their sin. Our sin today in this land of milk and honey, of freedom and prosperity, is no less great and God’s wrath could soon be kindled again.
I do not want this vlog to be oppressive or down-heartening, for we are not without hope for the future. We can step back from the brink of disaster. But to do so, we must risk the abuse of a narcistic culture and re-dedicate ourselves to the morality and ethics God has given us in Christ Jesus. It won’t be easy, either. Jesus assured us of that. The world has rejected Him and His message of salvation. We live in a time where God and our heritage are being written out of our history because they pose a threat to the dark forces that have risen to oppose truth. However, the ultimate victory over sin, death and the devil, the darkness of evil, has already been won by our Lord. We just need to remember to fear the Lord more than we fear the world.
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote one of the great lines of history. “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” And they did, at great price.
There’s a line in the movie “National Treasure” that says, “People don’t talk like that anymore” and in its sequel, “People don’t think like that anymore.” They’re right, we don’t. Too bad. We’re missing out on something truly wonderful. If we could trust, really trust in God again — wow. The beacon of freedom’s democracy would again burn with a fierce light.
Let me close with a verse of the Star Spangled Banner, the 4th, which nobody knows and nobody ever uses. If we did, those who seek to deny God and erase Him from our national thought, would change our national anthem in a heartbeat. “O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand, Between their loved home and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation Then conquer we must, when our cause, it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
To this end, let me voice those words we no longer hear today for myself, and I hope you voice them for yourself, “I will pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor” that this IS a nation under God. To that I would add from Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” So help me God.
And those are my thoughts. God bless and I pray you have a 4th of July that remembers that our existence is a gift from God.
Pastor Lee R. Harder