Happy with Christ on Dependence Day

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth!” (Matthew 11:25)

Independence Day weekend. Fireworks in honor of our successful revolution from the British. We no longer depend on the Crown. We wave our own flag instead. We stand tall, an independent people, with burgers on the grill and ice cream for dessert. We rejoice in American independence.

And we go to church, and we hear about the Lord Jesus rejoicing, too.

St. Luke also narrated the same scene. Luke uses the word agalliáō to describe what Jesus did at that moment. Agalliáō means, ‘to exult, to rejoice exceedingly.’ It is Independence Day weekend, and the Lord Jesus is agalliáō-ing right along with us Americans.

But wait.

When the Lord exults with joy in spirit, what does He exclaim? Does He declare His independence? Does He stand tall and free?

No. Actually, He humbly praises the Father.

–Father, all I have comes from you. Father, no one knows anything, except what you let be known. Father, no one has anything, except what you give.

–Father, I rejoice and exult exceedingly—I shoot off the fireworks in my deepest soul—because You give so freely, like a parent caring for a child. The greatest wisdom is the unquestioning open hand of the child. The child has no delusions of grandeur, no pretence whatsoever of independence. Rather, he eats the ice cream handed to him with simple, unprepossessing delight.

Listen, I am not trying to be unpatriotic. Our beloved mother country is 235 years old now. We owe her the devotion that sons and daughters owe to a mother. We can hardly declare ourselves independent of the country that has nursed us in her arms. So, on Independence Day, we acknowledge our utter dependence. We give thanks for the national patrimony that has been given to us and has made us who we are.

Isn’t this the wisdom that makes us relish our hamburgers and hotdogs on the Fourth of July—namely, that we are all in this together? Our ancestors, our fellow man, and us—dependent on each other for our national independence. We stand together on this beautiful land, gazing together at the sky of the western hemisphere, thanking the one God Who made the British and us and everyone else. Independence Day cheers our hearts because, on it, we imitate Christ and acknowledge our dependence on our fathers, without whom we are nothing.

Full-throttle independence, on the other hand, is insupportably exhausting. Exhausting because impossible. This week I officially became the pastor of a more-than-1,000-square-mile territory. Standing tall and free, Father Mark! Lord of all I survey!

Have mercy, dear God. I do NOT declare independence.

I declare dependence. God, help me. Everybody, help me. We are in this business here together. We depend on each other.

Perhaps the only way even to begin to conceive of how much we rely on God and each other is to try to imagine unimaginable things.

The Empire State Building stands tall and proud over Manhattan Island. But what if there were no Manhattan Island? What if Manhattan Island were made of sand instead of granite?

What if there were no earth beneath our feet? It would be a long way to fall. We wouldn’t fall down to China, because there wouldn’t be any China. Without the inconceivably huge number of things that God has given us, which we take for granted, we would just keep falling and falling and falling.

Father, we praise You for every detail of the infrastructure of reality on which we utterly depend. We certainly don’t even know the half of it.

We praise You, Father, for the United States of America. We praise You for the Holy Roman Church, one and catholic in every land. Father, we freely acknowledge that we are nothing without You.

Please keep it coming, Lord. Keep the pillars of the earth in place for us. Keep the sweet juices flowing.

You would have every right to turn off the spigot. We can be so petty, so ungrateful, and so grandiose. You would have every right to leave us with lives that are like cars with no gasoline. Or lives that are like grills with no charcoal. Or like wafer cones with no butter-pecan ice cream. You would have every right to flip the switch and turn southwest Virginia into a dark dungeon. We deserve such rough chastisement.

But please don’t do it, Lord. Don’t leave us independent, even though we act like we want to be. Independence from You would be a punishment greater than we can even imagine.

Lord, give us buns and lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise to go with our burgers. Be merciful. Be kind.

On Independence Day, we freely declare to You, Lord: We depend on You for absolutely everything.

One thought on “Happy with Christ on Dependence Day

  1. Greetings from the U.S. Virgin Islands where I’m vacationing with my family. Plan to attend the small Catholic Church here in St. John tomorrow morning. Masses are at 7:30 and 9:30, so I better get up early! Hope to see you on the Delaware Shore next month.

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