All Saints of North America

Sermon from 4 July 2005

This weekend:   In the Church we are commemorating All the Saints of North America                                 In our country, we are commemorating Independence Day

While American freedoms and independence are a special gift for which we ought to give thanks to God, it should be obvious to all of us that independence and freedom are not necessary conditions to live a holy life and to please God.   The vast majority of Christian saints lived outside of America and in fact lived in times of almost no freedoms and great persecutions.  Being a Christian is not dependent on being an American.    And our goal as Christians is not just to be independent and free to do anything we want, but our goal is to love God and our neighbor.

Freedom and independence do not necessarily lead to holiness, to faith, to love, to being a Christian.   One has to be willing to use one’s freedom to choose holiness and goodness and truth and love.   We don’t automatically get to heaven just because we are born in America or because we have the right to exercise our freedoms.

In fact one can use one’s freedoms and independence to live a proud, alienated self-centered life.  One can use one’s freedoms to serve self, or to serve evil, or to serve God and neighbor.

America, God shed His grace on thee, and crowned thy good with brotherhood.

Embedded within the American ideals, within America’s self-myths or these very high virtues of goodness, truth, justice, kindness, generosity, brotherhood.   It is up to us to bring these forward into our lives.

We are free to live by the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, to strive for the Christian ideal of deification, that union with God by which we experience God in our daily lives.    We also are free to practice self-deification, whereby we each make ourselves to be the most important thing in the world, and we treat all others around us as things designed to serve our self interest.

Freedom does create that temptation to be proud and alienated and self-sufficient.

But these things can be overcome when we as God’s children embrace the goodness of creation itself – Creation that great gift which God created for us to enjoy and to be a cause of our giving thanks to Him.   We overcome our self-centeredness when we embrace our interrelatedness to the rest of humanity, when we see in each person the image of God, and realize we all were created to share the earth and we actually can love one another.

We are most blessed when we use our God-bestowed freedoms to relinquish our isolated self-will in favor of communion with Christ.   For here in the liturgy, we should be able to experience the blessedness of all creation through the sacraments in which creation itself becomes our means to communion with God.   Here we come to see each other not as poor and rich, smart and stupid, beautiful and ugly, like me or different – but here we are given opportunity to see each other in the image and likeness of God as we each were created by God.

And here we especially experience the blessings and love of God for us, for which we give thanks.    Because here we realize that it really is not only the rich, the powerful, the self promoters, the aggressive, the famous, those who forcefully help themselves and the healthy and the gorgeous who are blessed.

Because the good news is that even the poor, those who are mourning, the meek, the hungry, the innocent, the powerless, the persecuted are called blessed by Jesus.   Even these people are not cursed or suffering because they aren’t good enough, but they belong to God.   And instead of us looking around and judging the less fortunate as deserving their fate, as not living up to their potential, as suffering due to their sins and failures, we come to see each person as being in God’s image and likeness, blessed by God, and so we too should in love be blessing them.   May God bless Americans with this vision of His love so that we all can become the saints of North America.   And future generations of Americans will be blessed through us.

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