“Sin or Suffering” ~ Sermon for July 1, 2018

July 5, 2018

“Sin or Suffering” ~ Sermon for July 1, 2018

Our New Testament reading this morning brings us two remarkable stories of healing, of miracles performed by Jesus. Jesus is traveling with his disciples, drawing large crowds wherever he goes. As you listen to the reading this morning, place yourself in the crowd. Feel the heat of bodies pressed close and the fervor of those trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. Hear now a reading from the gospel of Mark 5:21-43.

Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.

Please pray with me.

Companion in life and death, your love is steadfast and never ends; our weeping may linger with the night, but you give joy in the morning. Touch us with your healing grace that, restored to wholeness, we may live out our calling as your resurrection people. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


Out of the depths
I cry to you, O God.
O God, hear my voice!

These words from the psalmist have been resonating with me this week as I see pictures of families stranded at borders – not just the borders of our country, but at borders around the world.

No one, it seems, wants to let outsiders into their country.

Here in Salisbury, right in this Meetinghouse on Wednesday evening, we heard spirited debate about who we want to, or don’t want to, let in to our corner of the world.

As I reflected on all this territorialism I couldn’t help but wonder about the boundaries we set up, the territory that we claim as our own.

I remain unconvinced that God envisioned a world chopped up into tiny enclaves, each battling the next to ensure a quality of life for some…but not for all.

Somehow I think that God’s plan for this beautiful earth was that we would live together in peace, caring for one another, loving one another.

We have lost our way.

This past week seemed particularly problematic with name calling, court rulings upholding bans on people visiting our country, executive orders stripping away fundamental rights.

I feel hypocritical singing our patriotic songs this morning because I fear they no longer espouse the values of our country.

I was raised in a patriotic household.

The words of these hymns are written on my heart.

Memorial Day and Fourth of July were days of great celebration.

As you prepare for Fourth of July activities this week I encourage you to think of what you are commemorating.

Fourth of July, or Independence Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 freeing the 13 colonies from British rule. (please read the Declaration of Independence this week).

In 1852 Frederick Douglas addressed a Fourth of July gathering in Rochester, New York where he called his audience to account for celebrating their own independence whence slavery was alive and well in the United States.

Reflecting on the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence he said:

“They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settIed” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.”

He continued on with a message that resonates throughout our country today:

“The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.”

On this Independence Day, we must acknowledge not just our independence from British rule, but our interdependence on one another for the well-being of our communities and our complete dependence on God for our very breath.

On this Independence day we are called, through the gospels of Jesus Christ to stand for what is right; to oppose laws or economies that hurt people.

As Christians, and as Americans we are called to the highest moral order – motivated by our love of God and neighbor.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail:

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

I read an interesting commentary this week on immigration that posed a question of perspective.

It asked whether you view the immigrants as sinners or victims of suffering.

Under the rubric of sinfulness harsh treatment and accountability are justified.

However, if the people seeking refuge are seen as suffering, then our Christian values call for compassion, care and tenderness.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions issued a statement this week that read in part, “History teaches us that cruelty is at its worst when it is rationalized by leadership, justified by law, and made defensible by appeals to sacred writings. The voices of the many are responsible to speak out against such aberration from our shared humanity, wherever in the world it is found. Silence and inaction equate to complicity.”


My friends, on this Independence Day, let us as a gathered faith community seek out ways to bring light to darkness.

Let’s have a conversation about experiences you may have had standing up for what is right and let’s explore what we might do to ensure that every person created by God gets the life, liberty, and justice that we celebrate.

Let us pray.

Almighty, holy God, creator of our world, be with us this day as we celebrate the good things in our lives, freedom, liberty, justice; help us to be alert to those areas that need our care. Grant us the grace, we pray, to uplift every one of your beloved children, our siblings, to lives of dignity and peace. O God, we know that you hear our cries of lament for our country. Help us to understand one another. Help us to recognize your presence in each and every person. Guide us as we work for peace and justice in your name.

Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.

For those who are sick, we pray for healing.

For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.

For those who have yet to live independent lives, we pray that your Holy Spirit might guide them on their journey to freedom.

O God, empower us with the gifts of faith and trust so that we might be bold in our work.

Hear us now as we turn to you in the silence, seeking your presence…

Jesus taught them to pray together in these words…Our Father


Frederick Douglas speech

Declaration of Independence


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