“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” (Galatians 6:14-15)
The news of recent weeks has been full of momentous events, seemingly every day: horrendous violence in our schools and on our streets, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the congressional hearings concerning January 6, supreme court rulings, and on and on. It seems as if each day brings more evidence of how divided we are as a nation.
Yet in the midst of all of this disagreement and discord, we are getting ready to celebrate the most patriotic of holidays: Independence Day. For one day at least we get to lift high the shared belief that unites us as a nation: that all of us are created equal and that each of us is endowed by our creator with the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Each Independence Day celebration becomes an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this vision, quell our personal cynicism, and let ourselves once again be touched by what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.
In light of this, it might be comforting to remember, as Professor Kathryn M. Schifferdecker points out, that Jesus’ original followers weren’t exactly a unified bunch. They included a Zealot, one dedicated to overturning the Roman rule, and a tax collector who gathered funds to support that same rule. There were the “Sons of Thunder, James, and John, along with the skeptical Thomas. And let’s not forget Peter, who in one breath confesses Jesus as the Messiah, and in the next denies that he ever knew him.
As different as they were, they became united when they heard the call of Jesus, “Follow me.” They left everything behind. And as we hear in our gospel lesson this week, they weren’t the only ones, as Jesus sends out seventy others to heal the sick and preach that the Kingdom of God has come near.
That’s the amazing thing about the body of Christ. We don’t come to church to hang out with people who are just like us. We don’t get to choose who sits next to or behind us in the pews. We disagree on lots of stuff. But we come because we have been called together by Christ. We have accepted the commandments to love as Christ loved and to bear one another’s burdens, perhaps especially when we disagree about particular issues that threaten to divide us.
It’s rather amazing when you think of it. Certainly, Paul was amazed when he wrote to the Galatians:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28).
Instead of our independence, we celebrate our interdependence. And we don’t just do that one day of the year. Every day is our day to celebrate our new creation in Christ Jesus.