Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30/ Romans 7:15-25a
HCSM July 3, 2011
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
What a gorgeous day to celebrate life!!!
Let me first say thank you for the blessings you have given me and my family in celebrating my 40th birthday. Today also marks the day God blessed us with a full time ministry of a Vicar!! This, I will forever remember, for this is a sign that God continues to bless us in this place with love, compassion and service to each other. I will also forever remember this day, for you did not only raise me but you also made me feel younger. What else could I ask for more?
With that, I would like to serenade you with a song. I love it when John Lennon from the Beatles sings this song:
When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine, Birthday greetings bottle of wine?
If I’d been out, till quarter to three, Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I’m sixty-four?
I could be handy mending a fuse, When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings go for a ride.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds, Who could ask for more? Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I’m sixty-four? Hoo!
Will you indeed still need me when I’m sixty four? Well, you better be, I lost many hair this far.
A high school friend of mine found me on Facebook and remarked, “Leonard, what happened to your hair?” I replied, “I don’t know, I just found myself responding to a call from God, and here is the result.”
But let me draw your attention to a greater celebration we are having today. I am not celebrating this great occasion alone, for it is also the birthday of this great nation and I am pleased to join you my fellow citizens and friends here in this place, in celebrating Independence Day.
Every year on the 4th of July, we gather with family and friends to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of 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 place, in 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? How many of you are victims of domestic violence sometime in your life and you still can’t get through those painful memories. Who among us are living in fear that we are soon going to fall into the pit of diabetic coma, of heart attack or the devastating cancer. What about those who 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?
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. Why only now? Why only when we need God? We have placed him in a safe box, locked him there and would only open it when we needed Him. We become ourselves alone, independent of God. We become gods and begin to fall into the pit of oblivion.
Do you think America is falling into that pit? Where we are slowly losing our grip with the rope that connects us with God? My fellow people of God, it is never too late, there is yet a 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.
The Epistle to the Romans tells us that God does not disqualify us merely because we don’t perform perfectly. Paul said, “The things I know I should do, I don’t. The things I know I shouldn’t do, I end up doing.” Remember those times? We do the opposites. We are not perfect. We make mistakes or wrong choices but we don’t stumble in trying to condemn ourselves. You’ve got to shield yourself from listening to the accusing voice. Believe God is working on you that you are growing, learning, and becoming a better person. That accusing voice will come to you and tell you, “You lost your temper with that woman.” Learn to say, “That’s alright, I will do better this time.” “Well, what about that failure you did few months ago in your family relationship?” Say, “That’s past, I’m blessed by God’s mercy, I am renewed and I refuse to look back with bad past, I am resolved to move forward.” When we have this kind of drive in life, we can pass the temptation of that accusing voice. You are establishing a shield to get rid of that voice and not able to control you at all times.
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.” Amen.