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You Canít Stop The Harvest!
July 4 and 5, 1998

GALATIANS 6:7-10

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress of the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring their independence from the King of Great Britain. The American revolution was begun, but it is not yet over. We separated successfully from Great Britain, but the American experiment in democracy is still in process. The seeds of democracy were planted, the harvest is happening, and you canít stop the harvest!

The Scripture lesson read today is clear. Paul, the author of the letter to the church in Galatia, proclaimed, Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow." You harvest what you plant, and you canít stop the harvest.

What was planted by the Declaration of Independence is a statement, a concept, an article of faith that is still revolutionary, deeply rooted in God, biblical, Christian, and magnificent in its poetry, majestic in its scope, inspiring in its magnitude.

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.

This revolutionary statement is built on the best of the Bible. Earlier in Galatians, we find an ideal that was not only revolutionary some 2,000 years ago, but is still revolutionary today. Galatians 3:28, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

When this letter was written, slavery was common throughout the Roman Empire. The earliest of converts to the Christian faith were slaves. Slavery was acknowledged and accepted by the culture and by the Bible.

But, the seeds were planted. "There is no longer slave or free." It may have taken centuries, but you canít stop the harvest. Certainly, no American; certainly, no Christian today agrees with the Bibleís acceptance of slavery. The Holy Spirit didnít stop inspiring after the Bible was written! The Bible is a living book, not a dead hand of the past. The Bible inspires us to continue Godís work. It is not to be used as a stumbling block! God is at work creating a world where there are no divisions, no separations, no classes, no insiders and outsiders, a world where we are one in Christ Jesus, a world where everyone is created equal and endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The American revolution is not over. But, the seeds have been planted, and you canít stop the harvest.

When the Declaration of Independence was adopted, slavery was a way of life in the southern states. In fact, some historians say that an underlying cause of the American revolution was fear of the increasing anti-slavery sentiment in England. In order to keep their slaves, the Americans separated from Great Britain.

In 1776, "all men are created equal" except slaves. But, the seeds were planted, and you canít stop the harvest. "There is no longer slave or free" said the Bible. It took 90 years for America to free the slaves. It took a cruel, bloody, devastating civil war, but the harvest happened. Slavery was abolished. It took a Martin Luther King, Jr. in our own century to lead a movement to guarantee that people of color are created equal, and that people of color have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, the battle for civil rights is not yet over. The American revolution is not over. God is constantly at work creating a world where everyone is treated as equals, and God calls us Americans to get on with the revolution.

In 1776, "all men are created equal" did not include tenants, renters. Only male property owners could vote. But, the seeds were planted, and the harvest happened. Today, no one is denied the vote because they are renters, and no one is prohibited from exercising the right to vote because of a poll tax.

In 1776, "all men are created equal" did not include women, but the seeds were planted. You canít stop the harvest. "There is no longer male and female," said the Bible. It took a long time, but women were granted the right to vote in 1920; and there is still a long way to go for women to be equal citizens with equal pay and equal opportunities. The American revolution is not over. Last week, Time Magazineís cover declared, "Feminism is Dead." But, men canít stop the harvest! The largest Protestant denomination in the United States declared at their convention last month that women are subordinate to their husbands. They quoted some Bible verses to support their position. I wonder if that denomination still supports slavery! I wonder what they do with Galatians 3:28, "There is no longer male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

The revolution goes on. The Holy Spirit didnít stop inspiring after the Bible was written! The Bible is a living book, not a dead hand of the past. The Bible inspires us to continue Godís work. It is not to be used as a stumbling block. God is constantly at work creating a world where women are treated as equals, and God calls us Americans to get on with the revolution.

There is a major controversy today over the question: Are homosexuals created equal? Homosexuals are not abstract concepts. They are people, probably in your own family: son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin, second cousin? My wife, Ellie, has a second cousin who is lesbian. Her Minnesota Swedish Lutheran family are Christians and Americans! They lovingly accept her and her partner as family! There are many in our country who try to deny the rights of homosexuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, the seeds have been planted. You canít stop the harvest. Senator Don Rickles publicly opposed the appointment of a gay man, James Hormel, as an ambassador because "He promotes immoral behavior."

There are many United Methodists today who welcome gay people as long as they seek to be "transformed" into someone they are not! They quote some Bible verses to support their belief that gays are not created equal! I wonder if they still support slavery. I wonder if they believe women are subordinate to men. But, the Holy Spirit didnít stop inspiring after the Bible was written! The Bible is a living book, not a dead hand of the past. The Bible inspires us to continue Godís work. It is not to be used as a stumbling block. God is constantly at work creating a world where all his people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are treated as equals, and God calls us Americans to get on with the revolution.

"God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow." You canít stop the harvest!

(Today we celebrate Holy Communion. Because Jesus loved us with all his being, he gave his life willingly, and we are now harvesting, we are now reaping what Jesus planted: eternal life, salvation, a personal relationship with God.)

ã 1998 Douglas I. Norris