SERMON TITLE: “Acts of the Spirit: Freedom of the Spirit”
SERMON TEXT: Acts 11:1-18
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: July 4, 2021, at First UMC
An annual tradition that I’ve come to love every Fourth of July is the reading of the Declaration of Independence on National Public Radio. Every year when those expressive and familiar voices read our founding document, I feel goosebumps on my arms and pride in my heart. It truly is a wonderful thing that our nation was founded on the hopes, dreams, and declaration of independence.
But when I heard the Declaration read on Friday, there was something different. Before this year’s reading, a commentator made some points about the Declaration’s statement that “all men are created equal.” Obviously, she said, the nation’s founders didn’t include women in that idea. It would be a long time yet before women would have property rights and the freedom to vote. And, before the final draft of the Declaration was signed, some anti-slavery wording was removed, so as not to offend those potential signers who certainly didn’t want to consider their African slaves as equals in independence. Nor did the founding fathers consider the native inhabitants of this land as their equals. Instead, the Declaration refers to them as “merciless Indian Savages.”
Obviously, our nation has had and still has many flaws. As much as we Americans love our country, it’s important for us to recognize the mistakes we’ve made, how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go. Independence is an ideal not yet fully realized. As we rightfully celebrate our nation’s amazing successes, we also do well to admit that freedom is a work in progress.
What’s true for our nation is also true for our religious faith. There’s always room to grow in the category of freedom. Fortunately, today’s scripture reading from Acts 11 addresses this very subject. In fact, you could call it an Independence Day story, complete with an Independence Day menu, guests, and some fireworks.