Sermon September 12, 2021 by Rev. David Hodgson

Citizenship is Covenant Living

“If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, …but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  

Joshua 24:15

Who is this who claims to speak with authority for his whole family?  Does he not know ~ does he not care ~ that children have a way of deciding for themselves how they want life to be?  And how is it that he claims to know the faith orientation of his family without first having a family consultation in which the feelings of each member were carefully considered and collectively evaluated?  Does this head of the household not know that subsequent generations will consider themselves to be more enlightened than those who preceded them, more politically correct than those they try to silence, more “woke” than their founding fathers?

Well, his name is Joshua ~ one of the founding fathers of our faith ~ and he lived with the conviction that founding fathers who are faith-filled are used by God to awaken faith in succeeding generations.  He knew, what all parents discover in their parenting, that it is not the wisdom of their words that awaken faith in their children, but the evidence of God-centered living that inspires God-centered living in their children and their children’s children.

Even so, A. J. and Shannon, Keith and Sheila have brought Tommy and Natalie to the place of discernment, having promised at the baptism of their children: We will serve the Lord, they trusted God to awaken faith in their children.  And we heard Natalie and Tommy promise to give God-centered living their best shot!  That is all we can ask of them, for God will lead them on in the adventure of faith-filled living.

This hour of discernment, however, is only the first of countless others they will face, when life itself poses the question that Joshua sets before us all:  If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve!  That decision will be made in the face of every peril, in the throes of every temptation, in the course of every life adventure, for life itself will set the question before them:  Choose this day whom you will serve!

And at every turn in the road there will be idols to worship, ideologies to serve, causes to embrace ~ all of them competing with the loyalty and devotion of God-centered living.  In every moment ~ we are free to choose ~ and never able to avoid the consequences of the choices that we make.

I want to thank Natalie and Tommy for their faithful journey through confirmation, and for their leadership in this hour, promising to give God-centered living their best shot.  We will sustain you as best we can in your every faithful endeavor!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Who are these men who claim to speak for all of us?  Do they not know ~ do they not care ~ that we are a people of great cultural variety and of ethnic diversity, that we cannot or will not pledge allegiance to the notion of one nation, under God until there is liberty and justice for all?  Do they really believe that they can speak to the ages for generations yet unborn ~ who will one day consider themselves more enlightened, more liberated, more progressive than those who bequeathed them the legacy of freedom?

Well, they are our founding fathers, who had the courage of faith to put their fortunes, their sacred honor, their lives on the line for a God-centered orientation of the nation they were fathering ~ believing, as with all parents ~ that it would not be the eloquence of their rhetoric that would awaken the spirit of freedom in succeeding generations, but the evidence of the God-centered orientation of their lives.  Therefore, they pledged themselves and their national household to be accountable to Almighty God for the citizenship they inspired in the nation.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that we come to this moment of discernment on the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attack on America on 9/11.  This solemn day is personal with me.  I lost parishioners in the Twin Towers that day, and had at least one parishioner that I know of who was in the Pentagon when it was struck.

Before the smoke cleared from the landscape of national life the words once offered by Joshua to his nation under God, and echoed by our founding fathers in our nation’s baptism by fire, could be heard again on September 11, 2001:  How will you respond as a nation under God?  If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, …choose this day whom you will serve.  That choice was freely given!  And then the echo of a founding father’s faith, as if to inspire us to live with grace and dignity, courage and determination:  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

There is room for much self-examination and national reflection about how we spent the last twenty years,  but from the sacred text come two unavoidable truths.

 1.  Not to decide is to decide in the negative!   In other words, there is no option for silence, or indifference, or political posturing, or blaming.  Anything less than:  Count me in because I want my life to count among the faith-filled, so God can use the example of my God-oriented life to awaken faith and inspire freedom in subsequent generations ~ anything less is to deny God the power of faith-filled living.

2. The solidarity of our citizenship is only possible when we covenant together under the authority of God ~ committed to be held accountable under the judgment and mercy of God.  There is ample room for the vast variety of the way we experience Divine Influence, but ultimately it is the realization that we are accountable to God for the quality of the life we share that sanctifies the ordinary nature of human life and renders it extraordinary!

We the people of these United States, in order to form a more perfect union…. 

We are clearly a work in progress, and the way we progress together will either inspire liberty and justice for all or bondage and injustice for all.

We are all at a defining moment in our national history and in our spiritual journeys ~ and I thank Natalie and Tommy for leading the way.  Let’s give God-centered living our best shot too.

David S. Hodgson

September 12, 2021

Confirmation and Twentieth Anniversary of 9/11