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Independence Day

PASTOR'S CORNER

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By Nick Wirtz and Benjamin Wirtz

Last week I had the opportunity to travel by air to the other side of the country. I had forgotten what it is like to travel packed in a small tin can with a whole bunch of other sardines!  A couple of things about sardines in a can: 1) They don’t have freedom to move because they are so tightly packed, and 2) they can’t move anyway because they are dead!  

 

While I personally didn’t feel dead, I DID feel tightly packed in and restricted.  Rules, rules, rules, and restrictions about everything; No Smoking. No congregating near the restroom.  No hanging out in the back of the plane.  No walking around in the isle.  No listening to electronic devices without headphones … In the land of “the free and the independent”, I was not feeling very free nor independent.  In fact, I felt very dependent upon the crew and pilots of the aircraft; on the cabin crew for sustenance, hydration, and permission to do anything, and on the pilots for my very life!

 

This all got me to thinking about our 4th of July (or “Independence”) celebration.  242 years ago our forefathers fought a war for freedom and independence from England. Freedom (first) from “unjust taxation” (interesting when you consider our present system of federal and local taxes), and (second) independence from being governed by a foreign entity.

 

So I asked my son, Benjamin Wirtz, (who usually writes a historical article for this paper) to help me out with a bit of relevant history.  He writes what is immediately below:

 

The American Revolution started with members of the Continental congress (representatives of the American colonies) who sent letters to Britain and diplomats about their grievances.  They were met with increased hostility. From the Colonists perspective, they were fighting a war of self-defense. About a year into the war, the Declaration of Independence was signed, stating the reasons they wanted to disassociate with Britain. 

There were certainly some things that could have been handled better, like the Boston Tea Party.   A boycott might have accomplished the same result but would not have generated as much publicity.   

Here’s a timeline of events leading up to the war:

Boston Massacre  March 5, 1770, where a group of British soldiers “Redcoats”, shot several people in response to protests and threats. 

Boston Tea Party Dec. 16, 1773, where Colonists dumped tea into the Boston harbor in protests of the Tea Tax. 

Battle of Lexington and Concord April 19, 1775, was the first official battle of the war. 

The end results of all of this of course was the eventual formation of the country we know today.

 

Our founders recognized that true “freedom” for a society could never exist in a vacuum. Wherever there would be more than one person the potential (even assurance) of disagreement and infringement of the other’s “freedom” existed and so they organized a new government built upon a document and “law” they would call “the Constitution”. The existence of this document assured a reference point outside of the individual which would govern the society at large and protect the individual within the society.  

 

The existence of law codified in a document accessible to everyone is the best way to bring about a good  balance of social order while maintaining individual freedom.  Humanly speaking, there will always be tension between social order and individual freedom.  Anarchists, on the other hand, would argue that true and total freedom can only come when there is NO government and everyone follows their own conscience, desires, and whims. The problem with that point of view would quickly become apparent in the plane example above, when I – compressed between to armrest-hoarding passengers – decide I deserve the “freedom” to sit in the window seat and the window seat occupant disagrees with me.

 

Individual freedom always comes at a cost to somebody else.  At the most basic level, somebody else must give up some freedom so that I may have some freedom … even as I must be willing to give up some of my freedom for somebody else.  At a much deeper level, the freedoms we enjoy in our country would not exist if there are not men and women who are willing to give up much of their personal freedom (and even their lives at times) to stand in the gap to protect my freedoms.

 

And yet, are we really and truly free?  Even more that the colonists felt abused and mistreated and robbed of their freedom by England and even more that the Africans who survived the horrific journey to the slave auction block and were robbed of their freedom in the Americas, is the theft of freedom and enslavement of sin and death that all people are under.  Sin is an addiction stronger than any addiction you could ever imagine.  It is an addiction that is impossible for the addict to break.  The poison of sin is so strong that not only is it deadly and terminal … it has already killed its victims. All sinners are quite literally and eternally dead.  (And, ALL people are sinners!)  

 

So, like the can of sardines, which is filled with fish that are dead, we too, are tightly enslaved and packed together, dead, and unable to move or do anything for ourselves.  So chained by the death of sin we have no real freedom to move or do anything that does not feed our deadly addiction or grovel before our slave master.

 

But, there is the One who “stood in the gap” and gave up everything (even his life) so that all people could be free of this wretched slave master.  He has given us an authority outside of ourselves, a document written down and accessible for all to read (a “Constitution” of only 10 articles), that were we to subscribe to it everyone everywhere would enjoy equal liberty and freedom in this life.  And in the giving of his life, He has penned a “Declaration of Independence” for all people from sin and death.  In His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus the Christ has forgiven our sin and declared freedom for “we the captives”.  Jesus began his public ministry by reading the following words from Isaiah 61:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from the darkness for the prisoners.”

He then looked up and said, “Today, in your hearing, this scripture has been fulfilled.”

 

Indeed it is fulfilled, for in dependence upon Christ, we can truly be free.

 

Rev. Nick Wirtz is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church at 2750 Mogollon Dr. in Overgaard, AZ and can be reached at (323) 717-4390. Pastor Nick resides in Overgaard with his wife Patricia. He has spent over 20 years as a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with most of that time spent in bi-lingual (English-Spanish) ministry. He also serves on the board of the local Salvation Army as an advisor, and as Chaplain for Post 86 American Legion Riders. He’s also known to be seen pickin’ a little guitar around town from time to time.