Each July, our thoughts often focus on Independence Day. There are celebrations, picnics, fireworks, flag waving, maybe even a Brewers game, or at least a day off from work. Yet, how often do we realize what the Fourth of July is really about? How often do we review the meaning of that day? Without such reflection, the day is just another day.
At the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, we read these words, “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.”
Those are awe-inspiring words! The men that signed that Declaration were willing to risk everything for the freedom and independence that document sought to express. Furthermore, many of those signers did lose everything. Throughout the years since then, many others have given of themselves, many having given their very lives, to maintain that freedom. And we enjoy the benefits.
Now, as important as the Declaration of Independence was, and still is, it is but an earthly document with no eternal benefits attached. When our dear Lord Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day, everything, including that Declaration, will be as nothing. Everything earthly will fade away.
Still, consider those words penned so long ago and apply them to life in the Church, and especially here at St. John. Here they are again, “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.”
We have been set free from the bondage and oppression of the tyrants of sin, death, and the devil. The great and final battle has been fought and won as the Lord Jesus gave His all, shed His holy, precious blood, died, and rose from the dead that we might be truly free. That’s why your Baptism is so important. Romans 6 declares that in Baptism you were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. And this so that you would no longer be enslaved to sin. Because of your Baptism into Christ, sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. In your Baptism into Him, Christ has declared your independence from sin. And for that reason, you are “slaves of God,” totally dependent on Him for all things pertaining to life and salvation. (I encourage you to read the entirety of Romans 6.)
So, it is for those in the Church. We too have “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” For, indeed, the Triune God has promised that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13). He who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier gives us His abiding care and protection through all the battles and storms of this life, and He promises to carry us in the ark of His Church into the safe harbor of heaven.
To that end, He has provided for the care and maintenance of our faith by providing “called and ordained servants of the Word” to minister to His people. As they preach and teach God’s Word in its truth and purity and administer His Sacraments in accordance with their purpose and institution, God creates and nourishes saving faith. Through the forgiveness of sins, God guards and protects us from those who would enslave us.
Is this not of more worth than a new earthly government? Of course it is! That’s why we at St. John need to constantly make use of His means of the Spirit (preaching, Baptism, Absolution, Communion) and thank Him for them. We need to frequently hear Him speak His words of forgiveness and life. We need to hear His Law and His Gospel that we might learn to trust Him more and more and live as His people. We need to hear His Holy Absolution and receive Christ’s Body and Blood as often as we can. Indeed, this is our greatest treasure!
And as we live in this Church, we are not alone. We have fellow members of the Body of Christ here with us. As we are not truly independent, but rather totally dependent on our loving God, we too can “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” as we live under His Word and protection. God grant that by His grace we would make such a pledge to each other, do everything we can for the maintenance and furtherance of St. John and the saving Gospel of Christ. And as we live under God’s grace and protection, as we enjoy the sacred honor of His holy name, let us give of ourselves and our fortunes so that His Gospel would be proclaimed, now and forever.
In the love of Christ,