Independence and the Courage to be free

Independence and the courage to be free
Matthew 11:25-30
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Since the beginning of the year 2014, I have had the opportunities to grow in wisdom and connections with great and inspiring people. I found that opportunity to be a healthy exercise in leadership. Tomorrow, I and two of our youth will be in the heart of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, to attend the gathering of more than a thousand youth of the Episcopal Church in the United States. I, being a liaison of the Episcopal AsiaMinistry to the National Youth and Chaperone to our Diocesan youth delegates, have to be there to conduct workshop on indigenous instruments and dances. I thank this congregation for being understanding why your Vicar has to be away at times. I know that God pulls me away from that busy-ness at times to regain strength and be able to engage again in some other ways. I thank the leadership of my Wardens and members of the Bishop Committee who take care of the business of the Church while I am away. I also thank members of the Clergy who share their time for availing themselves for pastoral care. Well, that is independence and interdependence.

It is not too late to greet you all a happy Independence Day!

Last Friday, instead of just sitting down drinking beer and eating barbeque on the Fourth of July, I again had the opportunity to be with people of this great nation and I am so happy that i was able to celebrate it at a parade in Redwood City and the community of San Mateo County.

Every year on the 4th of July, we gather with family and friends to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of our Independence. With vision and courage, our Forefathers stated with one accord to the world: “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.” These concepts fundamentally changed the course of human history and we have an obligation to do by passing this moment in history to our children, grandchildren and all those who come in this great country to embrace her beauty and freedom. This holiday is not made for us to forget the sacrifices of this great nation that transformed the world of what was July 4, 1776. A great country was born, and a new idea sent forth to all mankind: Freedom, not by the good graces of government, but as the legacy of every individual. Equality, not as a theory of philosophers but by the design of the great architect of the universe. Natural rights, not for the few, not even for a fortunate many, but for all people in all places, at all times.

We are the living legacy of freedom. We now live through another period of profound and historic change: change in the way we work, the way we live, the way we relate to one another and to the rest of the world. Indisputably, the gifts of Independence continue to light our path into the challenges and possibilities of the future. We must continue to reaffirm the spirit of independence daily amidst the challenges of the signs of time, amidst the uncertainties of economic resurrection in this great nation, amidst the Stressful life of the unemployed, homeless and those who are about to lose their homes, security and family. For there is yet a hope when we turn to God who calls us, “Come unto me, those who are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.”

Just how many of you whose problems are sapping your energies and giving you a hell of an experience? Who among us are living in fear and are threatened to sell all their properties and are just holding at the edge of double bladed knife? Do you know anyone who live in isolation longing to be loved? Are you one of those who are stressed because there is an interview coming up, or someone we know and love is sick, our finances are shaky, we feel understandably depressed and find it difficult to watch the news on TV or to think about anyone else’s troubles. Something is eating at us. These go on and on, day after day until we find ourselves pressed against the wall and feel there’s no way to scape.

Things are real, things have changed, and things are becoming inevitable. When people are on the verge of losing their ropes, who do we turn to? God. Yes, we turn to God. Our forefathers believed in the power of God, hence, “In God we trust” in the dollar bill.

We shall never lose hope in this great country. My fellow people of God, it is never too late, there is yet hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. If we cut down those that hinder us from doing the will of God, we shall sprout again as a nation. Let us have the courage to be free from what is pushing us down. Let us not be dependent from burden, let us rather be dependent with God who takes away our heavy loads and start anew.

Our Lord Jesus Christ offers rest, if we will come to him. Jesus in effect, is saying that he can wipe away our tears, can heal the wounds in our hearts, can banish the fears in our souls, can revive our passion for life. Of course, the rest which Jesus offers is not exemption from the fierce battles in life, not the absence of struggles and strife. It is the recharging of our vitality and strength, and the rekindling of our determination so that we may continue to fight the good fight and run the race. It is the refreshment and relief from the weariness, so that we may carry on our appointed tasks.

And so if we are to honor God’s invitation, let us make this worship a hollowed time for the re-consecration of our life, and resolve, with God’s help, to forgive those who have hurt our feelings; to forsake our own wicked ways and evil thoughts. We should incline our ears to the marching order of the Lord, and face the crises of our age with courage and confidence, believing that they who obey His bidding will never know the pang of failure.

When you wake up in the morning, please don’t say, “Hay buhay, trabaho na naman” “Oh life, work again” don’t start your day with negative thoughts. Instead, stretch out those muscles and with confidence say, “Thank you Lord for the new day and new life and thank you for accepting me just as I am. I rest my day to you, please give me strength and courage to do the things that are pleasing in your sight and may this nation be transformed beginning with me.”

I have a mug wine in my hand ready for a toast. I want to ask you, how heavy do you think is this mug of wine?
Some would guess about 20 oz or like my wife.

I would like to tell you that the absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

That is so with life stress. The burdens and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything. It is the same feeling a knee would occasionally complain especially when you have what medical term call “Osteoarthritis” where a cartilage gradually wears away which may cause pain and exhaustion.

It’s important to remember to let go of your stress in life. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down! Let God be part of your effort in carrying life through. Trust in God and he will carry you through. Amen.