Passages: Isaiah 3:1-11; Romans 11:13-24; Matthew 14:13-21
Եսայու Գ 1-11; Հռոմ. ԺԱ 13-24; Մատթ. ԺԴ 13-21
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Happy Independence Day dearly beloved brother and sisters! Happy and blessed day of remembrance of the freedom we enjoy because of the sacrifices made by men and women, political and religious leaders, father’s, mother’s, sons and daughters; individuals who paved the
way for these United States to be the place we each call home. Whether or not we agree with its current governance, or whether we accept the history and trajectory for the future, whether we were born here or arrived here under different circumstance, today, we gather and make our homes in this country. Yet, how can the 4th of July and all that we celebrate today with fireworks, hot dogs and burgers impact and influence our faith?
On this day we give thanks that we live in a country that, for better or worse, allows freedom, gives opportunity, and allows us to be who we want to be. Therefore, today is a celebration of liberty and freedom or as the Declaration of Independence states, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. However, life, liberty, and eternal happiness for us Christian’s comes not from a document, or through our own ideas because ideas can change, and documents can be altered. Rather, true life, liberty, and happiness for us who call upon God, comes only from God our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. A God that does not change or go with the times; a God that has given each of us a new life and freedom from sin; a God that came to us and now we must look to Him, for it is through Him we have been liberated. Does this mean we cannot pursue our dreams and aspirations? Of course we can. Does this mean that if we are patriotic, that we are in some way at odds to what God teaches us? No it does not. What it means is that we qualify the value of our life, liberty and happiness on the understanding that it is God who created that life, it is God who sets us free, and it is God who blesses us with joy. But how?
In the 1904 version of the song, “America the Beautiful” written by Kathrine Lee Bates, the lyrics after each verse speak to God directly:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!…
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine.
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
These words, which are directed to God are not mere lyrics but a prayer. A prayer from each one of us who calls this country home and who wishes to enjoy its blessings. Each stanza asks for God to come and bless us and bless those around us. Each a confession for His divine love, presence and freedom in our life. Now look at the words of today’s Gospel, “When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’”
My dears, God works through us to bless this world. God uses our hands, feet, mouth, eyes and ears, to build up and shed His grace on us by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. God guides us to bring into fruition His divine plan in this world, whether it is in the United States, in Armenia, in our communities, or in our homes. Therefore, for us Christian’s, who confess that Christ Jesus our Lord, came and died on the cross, rose from the dead and gives us life and liberty, we cannot ignore the truth that our true pursuit of happiness is rooted in our expression of love and happiness in each other, to feed each other. For all of God’s commandants can be summed up how? Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. It was this love of our neighbor that the forefathers of the United States had in their heart when the signed the declaration of Independence. No, not all of them agreed and no they were not perfect however, their trust in God allowed for them to form this nation. A nation in which we have life; a nation in which we are free; a nation in which we can also give life to others through our faith in God. Therefore, ask how does life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness treat the person next to us, our selves, our neighbor? Do we send them away, or do we feed them? Do we ignore, gossip, lie and cheat each other, or do we build each other up? My dear brothers and sisters, whether we celebrate the Independence Day of the United States, of Armenia, of Canada or whatever country we call home, if we do so with the knowledge that true life and liberty come only from our Lord then our home will be blessed for we, as children of God, will bless each other.
Love one another, pray for those who you do not agree with, feed the hungry and clothe the naked – “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ ‘They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ ‘He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matt. 25:42-45) Happy Independence Day, my dears and may “God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” May God shed His through me. Glory to God Amen!