04 July 2007

Independence in the Lord

Independence Day USA (4th of July): Isa 32.15-18 and Luke 12.15-21
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

If we were to look to our country for signs of the Lord’s favor, what would we find? First, would we even recognize signs of the Lord’s favor? Can we tell the difference between what the Lord has given us all as a gift and what we have earned by our ingenuity and hard work? It’s a trick question, of course. For us, that is, for Christians, there is no difference really between what we work to earn and what the Lord gives us. Those skills, those attitudes of industry and creativity, all of those spirits of innovation, commerce, longing for growth, all of it, everything we use to work for our prosperity is first given to us by God. Whatever abundance, whatever excess, whatever generous plenty that we enjoy as a result of sweat, bent backs, calloused hands, or talented minds hurting at the edges of possibility; whatever good or truth or beauty we build; all bounty, all harvest, all of our riches as individuals, as a nation of citizens and immigrants, and as a tribe of priests and prophets baptized in the death and resurrection of Christ, all we call mine, ours, and theirs is first and always the treasure of our God; His abundance first, then His gift to us in grace, and only then do we rightly call this nation’s material and spiritual flourishing “a blessing.”

Isaiah reminds us because we forget: “In those days: the spirit from on high will be poured out on us”. . .then the desert becomes an orchard and the orchard a forest; right and justice will live in the desert and orchard and God’s “people will live in peaceful country…” God says to Isaiah, “My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.” When do we forget this peace? When do we forget that our wealth is a gift and not a right?

There is a forgetfulness in wealth that poverty holds at bay. The prophetic witness of scripture testifies to the inherent dangers of possessing too much. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that scripture warns against the dangers of believing that and behaving as if we possess anything at all. The greater the imaginary treasury, the more tightly the acquisitive imagination binds the greedy dreamer to things and their accumulation and security. Bigger barns! More treasure! Bigger barns! More and more treasure…! Better locks, tighter control, limited access. Mine, mine, mine. And the narcotic stupor of acquiring without giving thanks, of possessing without surrendering to generosity, of storing up without abandoning to divine providence, that sedating haze of entitlement clouds the presence of the Spirit and we fail in our avarice—just me, just you, and all of us as one in a nation—we fail in greed to look back at the font of our blessing, to remember, and to put our faith in the only place where it cannot be exhausted: the heart of Christ Jesus!

We can celebrate our independence from the British Empire today. (I have it one good authority that they were more than happy to cut us loose!) We can celebrate political and economic freedom, religious and press freedom; we can even celebrate a certain material prosperity that comes from our long and assertive history as entrepreneurial capitalists and proponents of enlightenment democracy. But if these are godly treasures, harvests gleaned from a divine bounty, then they cannot be stored, cannot be hoarded in barns of privilege, heredity, merit, or in anything as flimsy and accidental as nationality or race. Some will argue that as Americans our claim to be heroes of a progressive manifest destiny ended in Vietnam. That’s a question for historians. Here’s a question for us Christians who would be heroes (American or not!): will you surrender—in absolute trust—all that you have, all that you are; abandon entirely your life and your things, hiding nothing, holding nothing back; sacrificing for the good of others your bountiful harvest to the Source of your life and all your wealth?

If so, you are free already. And today is truly a day to rejoice in the independence of the Lord!


  1. Amen. Happy 4th! God bless you, Father.

  2. Anonymous2:08 AM

    Fabulous post as ever...God bless