6th Sunday after Pentecost, July 4, 2021, Ezekiel 2:1-5, Mark 6:1-13 The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas
A few days ago, I experienced the joy of officiating the marriage of my son, Devon, and the woman he loves, Chelsea. I share this news in relation and context to the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, and our love of God, because all three – one’s marriage to another, one’s allegiance to country, and one’s devotion to God – involve a relationship of faith that, through conviction, will evolve and grow with time into something better than before.
Now there are notable exceptions to this rule, including violent abusive behavior, irreconcilable differences, and infidelity that may require the severing of such relationships or divorce. But if, in each of these ties, the freedom to choose and trust the one you love remains a fundamental factor, then there will always be reason to hope for the future.
The Declaration of Independence was a document of hope for the future that did not reflect the reality in which it was fashioned. At the signing of this document America was not an independent nation, but a collection of colonies controlled by Great Britain. All were not equal, but subjected to a hierarchy that included slavery, misogyny, homophobia, ethnic and racial bias, and countless expressions of bigotry and segregation. America was an imperfect union that, with time and faith, would evolve into something better – a more perfect union.
This evolution would involve disagreements, tensions, a Civil War, countless incidents of civil unrest that would result in constitutional amendments and the enactment of new laws expanding the rights of formerly oppressed groups.
In any meaningful relationship, be it religious, national, or matrimonial, tension is sometimes necessary. So, one of the questions I ask couples in premarital counseling is, “How do you argue and resolve your differences?” My hope is that disagreements will be caringly and peacefully raised with the hope of resolving the matter in a way that will be mutually beneficial, like the arguments that occur between God and God’s people.
When God, according to the Prophet Isaiah, says to a rebellious people, “Let us argue it out,” the argument is the case of God advocating for compassion and justice for the powerless in society and condemning all religious ritual that does not embrace God’s social objective to “seek justice” and “rescue the oppressed.” (1:17-18)
In every meaningful relationship, be it religious, national, or matrimonial, God’s voice is a lover’s promise to be faithful, a lover’s passion for justice, and a lover’s quarrel with those who are not mutually faithful and just.
How do you argue and resolve your differences with those you love? The Bible presents a constant lover’s quarrel between God and God’s people.
The Prophet Ezekiel is compelled to embody God’s voice amid a rebellious people. (2:5) And Jesus is a prophet without honor among his own. (Mark 6:4) Yet God so loves the world that God’s Word continues to be embodied in every effort that brings healing to broken nations, broken faith, and broken marriages
Marriage is a life in which lovers, in silent expressions and spoken words, remind each other of their mutual affection and dependence; how each is affirmed and finds fulfillment in the other. True love has only equals. There are no subordinates in love, for the lack of love finds us all equally enslaved by loneliness and fear. The expressed love and need of two persons for each other is a sacred act of caring and intimacy that provides an example of wholeness and holiness for all humanity.
God’s cause for justice is wedded to this world and every nation therein. And as long as we are wedded to God, we in our love for God, and our lover’s promise, passion, and quarrel with this country, will pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Pledge of Allegiance)