Sermon of the Month: Fr. Jerry Ness
Proper 9 – 2014 Year A – (July 6)
Good morning. I hope we have all had a safe and fun Fourth of July holiday weekend. As some of you may recall (because I have mentioned it before) one of my hobbies is Presidential history. With this in mind, I’ll share a little story with you. On Sunday evening, April 29, 1962, President and Mrs. Kennedy hosted a White House dinner for the forty-nine Nobel laureates from North and South America. After dinner, in the East Room, the President began his remarks with the following words: “I am proud to welcome to the White House the winners of the Nobel Prize in the Western Hemisphere. I doubt whether in the long history of this house we have ever had on a single occasion such a concentration of genius and achievement as we have tonight, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Two hundred thirty-eight years ago, in the summer of 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote these words: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” So begins our national Declaration of Independence.
Eleven years later, in 1787, Mr. Jefferson wrote these words: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” So begins our Federal Constitution.
It is my personal belief that these words of Mr. Jefferson are divinely inspired words. I am not saying they are the same as Holy Scripture, but I believe they are divinely inspired nonetheless. Did you notice the rights of God Mr. Jefferson references are life itself, and many of the qualities which are essential to living a good life — equality, liberty, happiness, safety, union, justice, and tranquility? These are all spiritual qualities representing specific spiritual locations. But, since the time of Cain and Abel, all too often some humans seem to want to deprive other humans of these God-given rights. When this happens we find ourselves needing to “provide for the common defence”.
My father was thirty-one years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and he became part of what is known today as the Greatest Generation. My father served in WWII with the 85th Infantry Division in French North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy moving up into Rome under General Patton. But he never made it to Rome. Somewhere in southern Italy, my father earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with a piece of shrapnel in his shoulder, with which he lived for the rest of his life.
WWII is just one chapter in the long history of the world when people of good faith have needed to defend themselves from the ill will of others. Since September 11, 2001, we have been at war defending our God-given rights. It does not look as though this war will end any time soon. Every Sunday we pray for the men and women serving in our armed forces, and we follow this prayer with a prayer that God’s peace will be made manifest throughout God’s creation. Each of these prayers is equally important. Our brothers and sisters in arms need our prayers to strengthen them and sustain them. Our prayers for peace may seem futile while this war continues, but I want to assure you they are not futile. God hears our prayers for peace and in God’s time, not ours, in God’s own way; our prayers for peace will be answered. Our calling is to live with faith, to act with faith, and to continue to pray with faith all the while trusting God that His divine peace will come to fruition.
Fr. Jerry Ness
St. Luke’s, Kearney