July 1, 2021
for Sunday, July 4
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Rev. Derek Cheek
When I was in seminary, many of my professors were adamant that as we moved from the academy to the parish we should keep certain priorities firmly in mind. Chief among these was that we should avoid celebrating public and federal holidays in church—occasions like Mother’s Day and…Independence Day. They believed that congregations should focus only on the church calendar. So, while parish musicians might push for patriotic songs to be sung on the 4th of July, we should insist that the day be observed as the 6th (or whatever) Sunday after Pentecost, instead.
I recognize their position and agree with them in principle; but being a practical man, I’ve never seen this as a beachhead worth dying on…so I have tended to take a more ambivalent position on the matter. While we won’t be singing the “National Anthem” as the sermon hymn at either of my congregations this week, there will probably be some patriotic music at least in the pre-service and post-service line up. And I’ll likely try to use the cultural Sitz im Laben of Independence Day as a springboard for getting to the theme of my sermon for the day. (My profs can at least congratulate themselves that I remembered that phrase).
In the Gospel reading we’re told that when Jesus returned to his hometown, “[T]hey took offense at him.” In Mark’s account we aren’t told much else, except that they questioned the source of his remarkable wisdom and power. Of course, they had known Jess the better part of his life. Their kids had gone to Bar Mitzvah classes with him and played pickup games of foßball in the park; their families went to synagogue with his family. They remembered when he had wandered off and disappeared for 3 days…causing great stress to his folks. They knew he didn’t leave home and attend Harvard or Yale…he went to Community College and refined his family’s professional skills—carpentry. Now he was a popular Rabbi teaching new and innovative (aka liberal) interpretations of the Torah. Just who did this guy think he was?
The answer to that question is obscured a bit in the translation I usually prefer—the NRSV. You may have noticed that I mostly used it in the selection above…except I fixed a word in the Ezekiel reading. The RSV, NIV, NASB, KJV, & even the Message Bible all render בֶּן־ אָדָם֙ (ben-adam) as “Son of Man.” Which is pretty straight-forwardly what the Hebrew text says. But the NRSV inexplicably changes it to “Mortal.” Colorless, albeit a safer political choice. This change removes the connection to one of Jesus’ favorite titles for himself: “Son of Man.” Jesus boldly coopts this title from Ezekiel and applies it to himself. He even refers to himself as a prophet in this passage. And it’s from that Qualification that he sets about modifying OT Judaism…and begins to push humanity toward a new set of understandings and moral ethics.
Hopping over to Paul for a second, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And this message is hand-in-glove with the message of Jesus throughout the Gospels. Every time the word Grace appears, our Lutheran ears are tuned to hear, “[B]y grace you have been saved through faith (alone), and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works…” Grace: the heart of the Gospel.
And now we return to the American Sitz im Laben. It’s the July 4th weekend. As Americans we celebrate our nation’s birth. Born of political and military rebellion. Born of impudence. Born of stubbornness. We are a proud and brash people. We take our freedoms seriously. We relish our economic (and military) dominance throughout the world. We fancy that we have pulled ourselves as a nation up from our own bootstraps. This is our national mythos…and we revel in it.
Like Ezekiel, the original “son of man,” we have been sent to a “nation of rebels.” To “descendants [who] are impudent and stubborn.” To those “who are at ease” and “proud.” We have been sent to them with the simple and undignified message of sola gratia: GRACE ALONE. It flies in the face of our national identity, our human pride, and our notions of self-reliance. And it's just as true within the walls of our churches as it is anywhere else in our great country.
As we ponder and celebrate our nation’s birth, may we find ways to disentangle our national thoughts from our religious thoughts. God has not taken us in and made us his sons and daughters because we are rich, powerful, or more moral than everyone else. In fact, those realities are more apt to be spiritual detriments than anything else. God’s grace is best seen in weakness. It’s best experienced and embraced as we release our reliance on wealth, power, and self-righteousness. May God help us to trust more fully in his truly sufficient grace.
[Jesus] left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”
• For our community of faith as we seek to do God’s work in the world.
• For those in our congregation and community who suffer silently with illness, financial burdens, and family obligation.
• For people affected by coronavirus, their families, essential workers, doctors, nurses, aides, those working in nursing homes, etc.
• For victims of wildfires, flooding and earthquakes.
• For Pastor Ivy Gauvin, Bob Pecuch, Gene Heil, Karen Johnson, Roy Pihl, George and Janet Balcom, Beverly Klang, Trudy Fetzner, Thom Shagla, Matt Isaacson, Alice Swartz, Dave Bentley, Joe Gauvin, Emerson Allaby, Skip Anderson, Barb Mattern, Karen Brown and Sarah Van Staalduinen, those serving in the military and law enforcement and their families, including Ben Wickerham, those caught up in violence and war who have no safe home in which to live.
• For all children, that the love of Christ may reach them through all of us who have resources to love, protect, pray and provide for them.
• For the ELCZ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and ELCZa Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia.
Names will remain of the Prayer List for a month - at which
time it will be taken off unless, or course, there is still a continued need
for our prayers and we’re asked to keep the name on.
COVID update – The Reopening Committee has put forth the following changes in COVID restrictions indoors:
Vaccinated – no mask required, 6’ social distancing not required, hymnals available
Unvaccinated – masks remain mandatory, social distancing recommended
Coffee Hour returns weekly!
We’re off and running…
If weather permits, we’ll bring it outside.
If not, we’ll have it in the narthex!
Adult Bible Study
Off the the summer. Will resume in the Fall.
***We continuously collect food items for the 5 & 2 Ministry. Bring your donations and place in the black bin in church narthex. Lists detailing items needed are also available in the narthex. Monetary donations welcome!
***5 & 2 Ministry Food Bins Donated to Date: 92
***ONLINE GIVING now available at St. Timothy for Debit/Credit cards. 3 ways to give:
- Go directly to our website at
- Use our QR code with the QR reader on your smartphone
- Download the app ‘GivePlus Church’. Create an account.
For further information, see Kathy Carlson on Sundays or call her at 485-1316.
While Pastor Ivy is out recuperating, you can contact
Pastor Heather Allport-Cohoon if there is a need for pastoral care.
She can be reached at 716-708-6466.