Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.
Day 62, May 14, 2020
“Declaration of In(ter)dependence”
The Declaration of Independence is filled with soaring language that stirs the soul. “When in the course of human events…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…we therefore declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”
It can be argued that much of the force behind the movement toward freedom that marked our beginnings as the United States of America came from the stories in the bible, including the epic deliverance found in Exodus. God’s decisive move toward freedom is captured in the memorable phrase, “Let my people go!” (Exodus 5:2) A symbol of the freedom sought by our ancestors is the Liberty Bell, which was once placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (now renamed Independence Hall), and is now located in the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. Inscribed on the Liberty Bell is a phrase directly from the bible, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:10)
The Exodus is undoubtedly a celebration of being set free from the cruel bonds of slavery. The Israelites danced and shook the tambourine when they had their first taste of freedom. But the Exodus is more than a story of independence. At its heart, the Exodus is a story of dependence, of being dependent on the God who delivered Israel from their bondage. That dependence is displayed fully in the Commandments that guided and shaped their life together as a community, spelling out in detail how to live in right relationship with God. Not only are the people dependent on God, but their life together as the people of God requires that they be dependent on one another, or in a phase that is meant to help us understand the importance of our relationships with one another, they are interdependent.
The interdependence of God’s people is found in numerous ways as their lives are forged together in the forty years of wilderness wanderings.
• Their first battle hinges on Moses holding his arms high in the sky. When exhaustion sets in and his arms droop, the troops on the battlefield falter. But Moses was not alone. Aaron and Hur stood by his side and supported his arms. The arms of Moses remained uplifted until the victory was secure.
• Moses again faces exhaustion, this time from the overwhelming burden of judging the cases the people bring to him. His father-in-law Jethro gives wise counsel. “Don’t do it all yourself.” Judges are appointed, the demanding work is spread among many, and a crisis is averted.
• The manna in the wilderness is a dramatic miracle, and yet it is also a subtle display of the interdependence of the people. No one gathered too much. No one gathered too little. Everyone had enough. Those who wanted to be independent, those who selfishly hoarded the manna, those who gathered too much with the intention of hiding it for the next day, they were disappointed by the discovery that the manna didn’t keep. It rotted right before their eyes. God wants all his children to have enough. In a world where many of God’s children hunger, we must never forget we are interdependent.
Leviticus is the book that gives us the verse inscribed on the Liberty Bell. Leviticus also presents a chapter that focuses on our interdependence, Leviticus 19.
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that takes root in our family relationships, calling for us to respect our mothers and fathers. (19:3)
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that sets limits on our own needs so that we can meet the needs of others. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field…leave some for the poor and the alien.” (19:9-10)
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that places high values on the personal integrity that serves to undergird the life of the community. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive others.” (19:11)
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that will not allow justice to be perverted or slander to be spread. (19:15,16)
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that embraces the stranger and the alien. “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (19:34)
• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that leads to the most fundamental affirmation of the need we have to care for and nurture our relationships with our fellow human beings. It is in Leviticus 19:18b that we find for the first time the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Coronavirus Crisis has taken many things from us. We cannot deny that. But deep in my heart, I do believe that this current crisis has been a great reminder that we are not independent. We are interdependent. We need each other. Because we need each other the way we treat each other, the way we treat each other and work with each other and look out for each other and the way we love each other as we move from our isolation back into a life as a community, the way we love each other will be the key to getting our life back together. Let me put it in personal terms. Here is my Declaration of Interdependence. “I need you. I miss you. I am better with you. I am less without you. I am so ready to get back together as a community, to work, to serve, to live, and to love with you, with you all. We are interdependent. We are the Body of Christ. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”
With the love of Christ,
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