Happy Homemaking!

Date: May 9, 2010 Mother’s Day
Scripture Lessons: Revelation 21:1-10, 22-22:5 and Acts 16:9-15
Sermon: Happy Homemaking!
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

One year when I was in elementary school, I remember bringing home those countless beginning of the year forms. As I was older, my parents encouraged me to fill out the forms myself. That made me feel grown up and responsible. So, I proceeded. Even though this was way back in the 60’s, our school system in Montgomery County Maryland was progressive. On one form, there was a place to list, name, address, etc. for the father, and a separate place to give information for the mother. They did not assume the family was a mother, father, and children living in the same house. The form also asked about employment. Father’s job. Mother’s job. Again, progressive considering most moms that I knew did not work outside the home. My mother had worked outside the home, one of the few, but at that particular time, she was in between jobs. So, as I filled out the form, I got to the blank “mother’s occupation.” I mentioned this to her, and said, should I put “housewife”? She said no, she was not a housewife. She was not the wife of a house. She was not married to the house. And she was not devoted to keeping house. She said to put down homemaker. She said “homemaker” conveyed that she was responsible for creating a home, for our family, and for making the world a better home for all people. So, I put down homemaker, not housewife.

When we listened to the visions from Revelation that were read this morning, we heard of the home God is creating for humankind. We heard about the river of life flowing through the city. A river that nourishes all life, that is clear and clean. No oil spills! And trees that bear fruit each month so that there is always food. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This may have helped inspire Julia Ward Howe’s vision of women coming together to cultivate international peace. In the city of Revelation, there is always light. You know the saying, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” Continuous welcome. Constant safety and security. And the gate never closes. This is an image of homemaking.

In the story from Acts, we hear of Lydia, a God fearer, a Gentile, not a Jew, yet one who practices the Jewish faith and finds life in its teachings and practices. She and her household and friends gather at the river to pray. Again, a river symbolic of the divine river of life-sustaining love. And they gather to have their spirits nurtured and sustained. And Paul and others come and offer their teachings about Jesus. Lydia is baptized and her entire household. While we may see this as heavy handed religious coercion, in that context, Lydia was being a homemaker. She was giving those of her household needed spiritual nourishment. It has been said that the gospel “is one hungry beggar showing another hungry beggar where to find bread.” Lydia was feeding the spiritual needs of her household. She wants to make sure that all in her domain are cared for and provided for in every way.

And she extends this homemaking and hospitality to Paul and his cohorts. She invites them to stay at her home. She offers food, shelter, and safety to these travelers. She is extending her homemaking beyond her immediate household. And, in this case, she is taking a social risk. We are told that Lydia is a dealer in purple cloth. Purple cloth was extremely expensive to make due to the dye process involved. So, as a dealer in purple cloth, Lydia was typically hobnobbing with the elite, the rich, royalty, people with power and influence. So she had a reputation to protect in the interests of her business. Now remember, Paul and those with him have been imprisoned for their preaching. They are not considered the most desirable or reputable characters. They have a rap sheet. Yet that does not deter Lydia from inviting them to stay at her home. She still offers them hospitality. She still takes them in and makes them feel at home. Baptized and imbued with the holy spirit, she extends her homemaking beyond her kin, to these fringe outcasts.

On this Mother’s Day, as we celebrate those who have mothered us, and made a home for us, we are invited to consider the image of homemaker as an image for the Christian life.

A mother seeks to make a home a place that is loving, where people are cared for according to their needs, where we are nurtured physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. A home is a context for play and work. A place to learn and grow and make mistakes and practice forgiveness. A place to feel safe. Where we learn to take turns. Share. Work as a team. Make a contribution. Take care of each other. Laugh and cry together. This image of home also reflects and describes the intention of Christian community.

Jesus created home among his followers. He created community that nourished people physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. It was safe space. There was team work, sharing, everyone making a contribution. Everyone important and needed. No one left out.

We are called to create this kind of community in the church. Where all are cared for and nurtured. Encouraged to share and take care of one another. Where everyone is valued and respected and fully included. Where all feel safe. And Christians, in turn, are called to go out into the world to make the world a loving, safe, peaceful, home for all people.

Christians are called to be homemakers for the whole world. Seeing that the needs of all people are met. Creating the context for all people to thrive and flourish, with no one paying the price for another’s well-being , except by choice. In a home, there are no victims, no oppression, no imbalance of distribution of resources leaving some uncared for. What mother would give one child a huge sandwich for lunch and only a cracker to another child? Of course not. The church community is called to care for all, within and beyond the church family.

While my mother was busy being a homemaker for our family, she was also busy being a homemaker in this broader sense, as a committed Christian. Though she worked outside the home most of my growing up years, she was also busy making the world a better home for all. She was very active in our church. Always serving on committees and helping with projects and programs. She was active in the civil rights movement in the 60’s in Washington, DC. She was protesting the Vietnam War. She was busy working to end poverty. I remember as a child being driven to downtown D.C. to see the tents erected on the Mall calling attention to the plight of poor people. And every time there was an event, my mother and others from our church, were busy arranging housing and making sandwiches for bus loads of people who were coming from UCC churches around the country. She was a real homemaker in the spirit of Jesus and Lydia!

When we moved to Minneapolis in the 70’s, we were afraid that my mom might be bored, being away from the Washington scene in the 60‘s. But she found ways to continue her homemaking even though my grandmother lived with us and did most of the housework. My mom was active in school integration, chairing the advisory committee at the junior high school. She was active in numerous local elections. At one point, she had signs for two competing city council candidates out in our yard. They came by to ask about it. She said the corner was large and in a high visibility location and she wanted to be fair, so she decided to have both signs up. Equal opportunity, that’s my mom. She was part of a task force to redesign the Minnehaha Parkway in our neighborhood, everyone’s yard. And she was active in the gay rights movement, especially within the church, which she believed should be a safe, welcoming home for all people. And should be making the world that way for everyone.

As a Christian, my mom was about making not only our household a true home, but the church and the world a safe, nurturing home for all people as well. It’s not that what she did was so great, but she gives us a model that involves balancing work, family, home, church, community and service in a way that honors the Christian calling to be homemakers for all.

This image of our Christian calling as homemakers is just as significant today as it was in the first century, in the 60’s, and in the 70’s. In terms of homemaking, the church needs to be a community of support for families. All kinds of families. Whatever the composition. Some years ago, I had a former LUCC member come in to talk with me. She advised me to preach and teach that a Christian family is a mom and a dad and children. She made her case. I told her respectfully, that I could not do that. It was in conflict with my Christian conscience and calling. I told her that I believed all families needed the care, nurture, and support of the church. And families with a single parent raising the children, families with same gender parents, multigenerational families in one household, needed as much if not more support, acceptance and love as more traditional nuclear families. I even used biblical examples. Mary and Martha and Lazarus, three siblings, who functioned as a household. The disciple whom Jesus loved taking in his mother. She wasn’t persuaded and eventually left the church.

The church needs to support all families. We need to be a community of love and care and actual assistance to the families of our faith community. Helping older people who are caregivers for spouses, grandmothers raising grandchildren, single parent households, adult children responsible for parents, same gender couples that are families, interfaith families, couples going through difficult times, families who go through divorce, older people who need help with transportation or household maintenance. The church is here to support all in the congregation, as a family. Offering help, companionship, and whatever is needed so that all feel connected to a home, a family, a community, here in the church.

And since it is Mother’s Day, we want to highlight that the church needs to encourage and support families raising children, a daunting challenge in the face of technological advances and increasing violence in society. As the mother of three, I can testify.

All people, in all kinds of families should feel the support and acceptance of this church as safe space with alternative values to the greed, violence, competition, and self absorption promoted in society. This is the kind of community Jesus gathered, this is the kind of community witnessed to in the New Testament. This is the kind of family we see in Lydia’s household.

We also need the church as a household of love and acceptance to help us to heal when our individual homes and our personal families have been a source of pain and difficulty. Journalist Ida Tarbell who wrote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, kept this newspaper quote in her scrapbook: “The family is a severe test of Christian character.” [From Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller by Steve Weinberg] Sadly, sometimes our families are not the locus of love, nurture, support, care, and safety that we would like them to be. The church needs to be a context for the healing, self acceptance and divine affirmation that may not have been instilled in us through our home life. The church should be a community of care and recovery when the family is a source of harm. It can be a context for emotional healing for those who have been damaged by family.

The church is also needed as home for those who feel outcast, worthless, and abused by society. Sadly, the world does not treat everyone with dignity and respect. And the church needs to be a place for healing and restoration when we are damaged by the unfairness, prejudices, and oppression of the wider world. This includes being a haven of solace for refugees and immigrants and those who are desperately in need of a sense of home, protection, well-being, and safety. The church cannot endorse efforts such as the law in Arizona requiring people to have documentation at all times. Hunger is hunger. Food is food. The church is to be a community of generosity, care and compassion precisely to those most in need. Lydia took in those ex-convicts. This sense of familial care and concern in the church cannot be limited by documentation, nationality, language, income, gender, education, sexual identity, skin color, or any other characteristic of a person. For the church, each and every human being is a child of God. That’s all we need to know. And we are called to create home for all of God’s children.

And on this Mother’s Day, as we consider our calling as homemakers, in the image of God, according to the model of Jesus, we want to remember what kind of a home the world is for women in our times. Several weeks ago, as part of the Eckerd College series on “The Plight and Promise of Africa,” Nicholas Kristoff, a coauthor with Sheryl WuDunn of the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, told us that he believes as slavery was the moral issue for the 19th century, and totalitarianism was the central moral issue for the 20th century, gender equality for women is the moral issue that will define the 21st century.

In our country today 14.6 million families struggle to put food on the table each day. [Fact from Bread for the World] This is in part due to the inequity in women’s pay in the U.S. Mothers in this country are paid 73 cents on the dollar for commensurate jobs done by men. When I graduated from college in 1982, we had buttons pinned to our graduation robes with the number 76, because at that time, women made 76 cents on the dollar compared with men for the same job. It has gotten worse. Now it is 73 cents. Single mothers make 60 cents for every dollar made by a man in an equal job. In the course of a lifetime, for equal work women make $400,000 to $2 million dollars less than men. This has a definite impact on the poverty rate in this country where one fourth of

U.S. families with children under 6 years old live in poverty. Many of these households are headed by single women. If we want to make this country and this world a better home for all people, men, women, and children, we need to work for equality for all. Yet and still, the women of the world continue their 30 year wait for the United States to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. This treaty has been used worldwide to promote women’s rights and make progress on property rights, systemic sexual violence, and women’s leadership. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that has not ratified this treaty.

There is still much work to do to make this world, this country, and the church a true home of peace, harmony, healing, equality and abundance for all people. Our homemaking job as Christians is not done. When we as Christians hold back our homemaking efforts for women or any group or people, we hold back families, parents, the progress of society, and care for the earth.

As the church fulfills its calling to be home and create home, we help to create the loving community of God’s dreams. We help to make the earth a haven for all life. So, in the spirit of God, Jesus, Paul and Lydia, in the spirit of the author of Revelation, and, in the spirit of my mother, no less, I encourage us all, this Mother’s Day, to claim our calling as homemakers! Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

Father’s Day

June 20th 2010 Father’s Day Sermon

By: The sweet Jean Johnson
Many of you have heard the story of the little girl who asked her mother, ‘Where did I come from?” The mother gulped and thought, Ï’m not prepared for this. But here goes.” and she began to tell her daughter about the elements of reproduction. The little girl responded by saying, “Mommy, George says that a stork brought him. Did a stork bring me?” What really was the question?

Questions. We are surrounded by questions. Many can be answered by Goggling on our computers. There are always the libraries with reference books and information in abundance. But what is the real question? Or do we know the real question?

In our Scripture this morning Jesus is asking his disciples. “Who do you say that I am?”

He was not asking about how the crowds or the Pharisees, or the people lined up for healing viewed him. These were his disciples who had left everything to follow him. What did they believe?

Peter was the first apostle to publicly recognize Jesus as the Anointed One. ( This translates into The Messiah or the Christ. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah.) In the Gospels Jesus talks about himself as the Son of Man, but in John 3:16 John writes “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.” For John there was no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. He goes on, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Think about this a minute. Notice how John attributes glory and majesty to Jesus. Adam, the first man, never had that praise. David, the King, was praised, but never at that ;level. Only Jesus received that recognition. The glory was found in his unique relationship to God. Did that glory shine forth? Was there a special charisma surrounding Jesus? What was so compelling about him the disciples left everything behind to follow Jesus?

I got a glimpse of this when a friend was preaching in our Chapel at Westminster Shores. Noel was a United Methodist pastor and her husband, Joel, was also a United Methodist pastor. They went to a meeting where Bishop Desmond Tutu was speaking. After the meeting. Noel and Joel stood out on the sidewalk to greet him as he passed by. The charisma of Bishop Tutu was so great that Joel turned to his wife, after the Bishop had passed, and said,” Ïf he had asked me to follow him I would have left everything instantly and gone with him.” Was that the kind of charisma Jesus had?. Was there something very compelling about him that made men leave their fishing boats and their families and follow him?

Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” What was behind the question? We don’t know. Perhaps he was asking if they knew what the OT had said about him. Maybe he was wondering if they would truly follow him under adverse circumstances. Maybe he wanted to know how close they were to God so that through that means they would know who he was. We simply don’t know.

What about the response Peter gave, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Where did that response come from? Did Peter really believe it? Was he quoting from the OT? Was he saying what he thought Jesus wanted to hear? Was he being truthful? How did this response change over the years from the time when Jesus was walking on the earth to the time when a scribe wrote this down.

Which is more important, the question or the answer? We normally would say that the answer is most important. But what if the question was not really the question in the questioner’s mind. Could one respond by saying, “Why do you ask that?

Depending on the phrasing of the question, we may get a variety of answers. Some may be true and some may be what the responder thinks you want to hear.

Questions and answers. I will not ask for a show of hands to this question, but I would bet if you were to answer honestly almost every hand would raise. The question is, have you ever doubted the stories of Jesus that have been handed down to us through the centuries?

I have. For decades I could respond very truthfully to the question, do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Of course. It was bred into my bones. Then, oops, as I began thinking about things in my more mature years I thought – I do not believe that Jesus came to save me from my sins. What sins? White lies, callousness toward others’ difficulties, not going to see the sick in the Health Center. an unkind response. These are wrong and I need to correct and repair relationships whenever possible. But does this make me a “sinner and a wretch”? God created the universe and saw that it was good. God created humankind and also saw that it was good. Now stop telling me that I am a depraved, sinful human being. I am good and I have potential and I can be in relationship with this unseen force and power we call God. My mind was what was created in the image of God. Therefore, we can be creators instead of just being the created.

I do not need to pay penance to the church or confess my sins to another human being. Martin Luther took great exception to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and penned his 95 theses nailing them on the door of the church. Do we take exception to our church? I certainly do in the Presbyterian Church when it comes to the lack of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender as ordained ministers. I want to say, “Get off this bigotry and begin to lead the church as Jesus would have done.” I do when they say that only ordained or specially approved persons can serve communion.

In the book Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult Father Michael who had been a Roman Catholic priest for many years, said to Rabbi Bloom, “What would you do if you began to second guess everything you believed?”

Rabbi Bloom responded, Ï would ask more questions.”

How many of us are prone to read books and magazines and newspapers and assume what we are reading is fact, ït’s the truth. Think back to the history books we read and knew they must, of course, be accurate. It took me a long time to realize that history books are “his story” – the writer’s story of the events as he views them. Think then of the untrue facts we have handed our children over the ages, unless we have helped them to think critically. If it is the printed word, it must be true. If the church declares a truth, it must be so. If the government says something is in our best interests, it must be so.. We can take time to snicker at this last statement. If the newspaper prints it, it must be true. Basically, isn’t this the way we act most times?

One of my sons is a foreign correspondent who has lived in many countries in Central and South America as well as Asia. Would he write a story that was not accurate? Not knowingly. He has an unbelievable rolodex of people he can call to verify facts and figures. But sometimes mistakes happen. So, don’t take as factual every piece of information that is written down. Question!

Let us think back to our own faith journey. For some of us Sunday school played a very important part in our understanding of Christianity. For others, hymns have been extremely important. Think about the theology in some of the öld hymns”we used to sing: “bathed in the blood of the Lamb”, “Jesus died for our sins”, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of his spirit, washed in his blood.” “ My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. Did we ever really think about the words as we sang them? What did they mean? What were the implications? I dare say we sang them heartily, as did I, knowing the words, but not really examining the meaning behind the words.

Yet they played a significant part in our belief system.

You may say, but I don’t know enough to question. If something doesn’t feel right as you read it or hear it, question it. If you can’t get answers, put it on a “back burner” and think about it as you go about your day.

A big question I have been dealing with recently concerns the power of the mind. At the very end of The Lost Symbol Dan Brown states that ” our brains, if used correctly, can call forth powers that are quite literally superhuman. The Bible, like many ancient texts, is a detailed exposition of the most sophisticated machine ever created ….the human mind. The ancients already knew many of the scientific truths we are now rediscovering…our minds can generate energy capable of transforming physical matter …..particles react to our thoughts …..which means that our thoughts have the power to change the world.”” This can burst open the doors of human potential. Is this the same as the power of prayer??????

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his book Letters to a Young Poet “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer.’”

Our faith is not sunk in concrete. It is not stale and old-fashioned. It is a flowing, renewing, reviving faith that responds to us individually in our culture. Our Christian faith is vibrant and can stand not only the test of time but the questions that flow because of it. So, ask more questions.

In God We Trust

Date: July 5, 2009
Scriptures: Luke 20:20-26
Sermon: In God We Trust
Pastor: Rev. Kim Wells

Speaking at a media event in Turkey on April 6, on his first overseas tour as president, Barack Obama declared, “I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is – although as I mentioned we have a very large Christian population – we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

The backlash was immediate. Gary Bauer of American Values replied, “The last time I checked, the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were Christians, not Muslims. Our Founding Fathers were inspired by the Bible, not the Koran.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich asserted, “Obama went to Turkey, and I think was fundamentally misleading about the nature of America. We are not a secular country.”

Karl Rove responded, “Yeah, look, America is a nation built on faith.” [Church and State, May 2009, p. 21]

Bauer, Gingrich, and Rove may be surprised to learn that the administration of President George Washington negotiated a treaty with Muslim leaders of north Africa and in the treaty it was stated explicitly that this new country, the United States, was not founded on Christianity. To reduce fears that this new nation would be hostile to Islam, Article II of the treaty states, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. . .” The Treaty with Tripoli was passed unanimously by the Senate under the administration of John Adams in 1797. [See Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “Is America A ‘Christian Nation’?: Religion, Government and Religious Freedom”]

I wonder if Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and others who support their views would light into founding fathers Washington and Adams insisting that the US is a Christian country?

The truth is, those who first settled this land from Europe did promote Christianity. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, church attendance was mandatory. Those who were truant without illness or permissible excuse were pilloried (put in the stocks) with an ear nailed to the wood. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished from Massachusetts for heretical beliefs. [See Wikipedia, “Massachusetts Bay Colony,” “Roger Williams,” “Anne Hutchinson”]

The first colonies perpetuated the European model of a state-supported church. But by the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were created, our forbears, after much discussion and debate, endorsed the wholly new concept of the separation of church and state. This new nation would experiment with a new model for the relationship between government and religion.

The first amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .” In addition, article VI of the constitution prohibits “religious tests” for public office.

In light of the church/state problems in Europe and the oppression and tyranny generated in the colonial period, our forbears chose a new path – separation of church and state. Past experience indicated that when religion and government are enmeshed, both are compromised.

Let’s take a few moments to look at some contemporary issues related to the important principle of separation of church and state.

Issues around the separation of church and state and the public school system have been prominent in recent decades. The legal ramifications of the separation of church and state allow for students to pray and read religious materials during free time in the school day. The law allows for religion to be discussed in the context of the curriculum particularly in subjects like social studies, geography, literature, history, and the arts. Religious groups and clubs may use school facilities outside of the official school day. Charisma, a Christian magazine, reports that there are 10,000 Bible clubs meeting in America’s schools. [Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “America’s Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On”] The elimination of mandatory prayer in school was not the elimination of religion from school. During the school day, the school is not to sponsor activities which involve religious indoctrination, proselytizing, or mandatory religious activities.

The intent is not to be anti-religion, but to support the family and faith community as the appropriate settings for religious instruction and guidance. The separation of church and state leaves decisions about matters of religion to the family and to the individual. The family and faith community are the appropriate context for religious practice, study, worship, and prayer, not the public school system. [See Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “Prayer and the Public Schools: Religion, Education and Your Rights]

Issues around education and separation of church and state also involve school vouchers. Churches and faith communities are free to establish schools and educational institutions. They are free to include religious instruction and religious practice in the curriculum. They are free to teach the religious doctrines of creationism, and intellectual design in the curriculum. But the voucher system involves taxpayer dollars being given to such schools, and that amounts to state support of religion, a violation of the first amendment of separation of church and state.

Another current area of debate in church/state discussion involves the faith-based initiatives movement instituted by executive order by the previous administration and not yet dismantled by the current administration. This involves taxpayer dollars being given to faith communities to do social service work. If the money is used to upgrade facilities, then the faith community benefits. The faith community can use religious criteria in hiring. It also opens the door for religious activities to be provided along with the social services. For example, you maybe expected to attend a worship service before receiving a free meal. Or children in an after school tutoring program may be expected to do practice reading from a children’s Bible. This mixing of tax dollars and religion is in clear violation of the separation of church and state. If a church wants to run a program like that with no tax money, fine. But tax money is not to be used to promote religion. [See Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “The “Faith-Based’ Initiative: Religion, Social Services and Your Rights”]

The last area we’ll look at today involving church and state is marriage. For decades, clergy have functioned on behalf of the state officiating at weddings. The individual was clergyperson was free to perform or not perform a wedding ceremony according to conscience. Now we have the current movement toward equal civil rights in marriage for same gender couples. So, clergy are free to perform or not perform such ceremonies again, according to conscience and church governance. However, if I feel it is an expression of my religious commitment as a clergy person to perform a same gender wedding and the state does not recognize it, is the state interfering with my religious expression?

In addition, the movement promoting marriage between one man and one woman is based on religious principles. If this is codified into law, is that not the state enforcing one religious viewpoint on the entire population?

Until these issues are resolved according to constitutional principles not religious principles, a growing number of clergy are not performing any wedding ceremonies, same gender or a man and a woman. They are refusing to be complicitors in a system that is denying the civil rights of same gender couples and violating the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.

Thomas Jefferson observed that with the ratification of the first amendment to the Constitution, the American people had created a “wall of separation between church and state.” [Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “America’s Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On”] While the wall has had cracks and chinks throughout the years, it has served this nation well and has received broad support from varying political perspectives.

In a speech given in 1960, President John F. Kennedy declared, “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant or Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

Senator Barry Goldwater, a noted conservative Republican, also strongly backed church-state separation. In a 1994 essay, Goldwater wrote, “I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.”

In a famous 1981 speech, Goldwater noted, “By maintaining the separation of church and state, the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?” [Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “America’s Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On”]

While religion is the source of conflict and contention in many places around the world, here in the US it is estimated that 2,000 faith groups and denominations are active and coexisting fairly harmoniously. [Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “America’s Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On”]

In Europe, where until recently in most countries, church and state were still in partnership, there is declining interest in religion. In England, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, fewer than one in ten people attend religious services. In the US, nearly 50%f of the population attends religious services regularly. 83% say they have prayed in the past week, and 95% say they believe in God. In addition, Americans donate an estimated $81 billion annually to religious institutions. Separation of church and state has led to a vibrant, rich religious landscape in this country. [Americans United for the Separation of Church and State pamphlet “America’s Legacy of Religious Liberty: Pass It On”]

Jesus did not come to establish a governmental system, he came to create beloved community where all people are treated with reverence, dignity, and respect. He came to bring people closer to God/the Divine/the Sacred/the Source. He came to bring people closer to each other as neighbors. For us as Christians, separation of church and state means that there are no restrictions or limitations upon our freedom to follow Jesus and to live out our Christian convictions. We are truly free to love our neighbor, love our enemy, work for peace and justice, worship one day a week or every day of the week, engage in activities of charity and compassion, comfort the grieving, visit the sick and those in prison, heal the earth, help the poor and homeless, and donate countless dollars to the church. We are fully free to live the Jesus life – to serve others, to live justly, to worship, to advocate. There are absolutely no limits from society or government on our freedom to follow Christ. So what are we waiting for? Let’s let our religious freedom RING! Amen.

Much of the material for this sermon came from the website and print materials provided by the organization, “Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.” The executive director of Americans United, Barry Linn, is an ordained United Church of Christ pastor, as well as a lawyer.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.