In an African American sermon God cried out, “I’m lonely!” and to solve God’s loneliness, He scoops some earth He has created, brings it to life with His breath, “and man became a living soul.” (God’s Trombones) But one wasn’t enough; God wanted a family as numerous as the stars in the sky. As told in the Bible, the generations began with Abraham and Sarah and their late-in-life son, Isaac.
Today we drop in on the story of Isaac finding a wife named Rebekah, who will carry the generations forward to tales of slavery in Egypt, a dramatic escape through parting waters of the Red Sea, on to a forty-year campout in the wilderness, and, finally settle in and around Jerusalem, to live a God-planned life that would make them a beckoning light, drawing others to join them in being a welcoming community of nations practicing justice seasoned with mercy, civility, and compassion.
Fast forward to the generation of our nation’s Founding Fathers who left, or escaped from an Egypt-like life, to journey through a new wilderness called America, and a new life in a new Promised Land; a journey of faith taken in the confidence of the Providence of God which they made a part of the document titled the Declaration of Independence that closes with the words:
“With firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The Bible’s story of past generations carried forward to 1776, when our nation’s thirteen original colonies unanimously ratified the declaration that would found a new nation on God’s intentions:
“We hold these truths to be self evident....that all men are created equal....and that they are endowed by their Creator .... with certain inalienable rights ....and among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The fifty-six people who signed proved to be a risk-taking generation with more than half suffering from being committed to independence. Two were killed immediately in battle; five were soon captured and tortured by the British; twelve had their homes burned; nine others died of hardship related to the war.
Francis Lewis of New York, who originally refused to sign the document, lost his home and his property and went into hiding. The British could not find him, but they found his wife, and she died shortly thereafter in jail. … he paid the price for freedom with the death of his wife. ... John Hart, from New Jersey, to escape his enemies, hid in the woods as the British were attacking his home; and later in a nearby cave for a year. When he finally came out, he discovered that his wife had died, and so, he joined the army to fight for freedom...at the age of 70. These people not only pledged their lives, fortunes and honor; they gave their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.
Our nation’s past generation of Abraham’s children who took the risks, trusting in the providence of God, made time to worship God and bow down to God in prayer; a generation immortalized in the artist’s portrait of Gen. George Washington, kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge.
Relying on “Divine Providence,” the rules for living together in a new nation were born and rooted in a total commitment to a Creator God, and a life modeled according to God’s image traced in human form in Jesus Christ, to whom they were yoked as a generation who accepted the Gospel invitation of Jesus:
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.’
Even Thomas Jefferson, who turned the Bible into a piece of Swiss cheese as he cut out all the parts with which he disagreed or thought to be irrelevant or nonsensical, and the agnostic Ben Franklin, affirmed with George Washington that every session of Congress begin with prayer; and William Penn who welcomed many of our immigrant relatives to Penn’s Woods, said if “we are not ruled by God we will be ruled by tyrants.”
As John Adams looked forward to that first Independence Day, he wrote home to his wife, Abigail,
“I am led to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations on every anniversary festival. It ought to be a commemoration as a day of deliverance with solemn acts of devotion to God.”
Now it’s our time to remember generations past, from Abraham to the signers of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, to people like Abraham Lincoln who took the risk to change “men” to “all people are created equal,” and then said, “there needs to be a rebirth of freedom in every generation.”
That’s where we find ourselves, standing between past and future generations, this present generation that the Black preacher, has Sherman H. Cox II seeing the “freedom of me,” of being self-centered, looking out for “number one,” with no regard for others, which is damaging families, communities, and nation, and the Kingdom
of God…all to the determent of generations yet to come.
Today’s Gospel couldn't be more timely with Jesus describing adults being “children sitting in the marketplaces calling out to one another, ‘We played the flute to you and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
causing Him to lament the sight of heartless, self-centered, indifferent adults,and then call out to those who dare to be different, to bear one another’s burdens in spite of the weight, and risk being yoked to Him as they accept His timeless invitation:
The old Aesop’s fable has a donkey asking a horse to share his burden, lest he die from the weight. The horse says, “Keep moving! Don’t bother me!” A short time later the donkey falls down dead, and the farmer shifts the load to the horse along with the dead donkey’s valuable skin. The horse cries out, “What a mistake I’ve made! If only I’d agreed to share the burden!”
The Gospel offer of Jesus, to let Him share the burden passed on to us from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, from Jesus Christ, and from our founding fathers, and walk in step with Him, so that we will become more and more like Him;
THIS generation that makes worship of God, practice of prayer, and a Christ-like life our gift in this moment in time when it is so much needed,
and our legacy to future generations. AMEN.