Hebrews 4:12-16       “Double Edgy”


            Happy Fourth of July! Is it not great to celebrate our country this morning? Is it not wonderful to ask God to continue to bless our homeland?

            You know, some months back I was talking with another pastor on another island during a Zoom session. He explained to me that there were some good things about the Covid pandemic that happened at his church. One of those things was that he was able to sneak the American flag out of his sanctuary. He then told me that he had been wanting to do that for a long time, but too many people would have complained. Now he could do it and no one would notice.

            I thought about that for a moment. Then, the utter backwardness of his statement hit me. If nobody comes to worship in the church, then you can do anything. You could take down the cross. You could pack up all the Bibles and put them away forever. You could turn the church into a taco stand if you wanted to.

            The other thing that struck me is that I had done the exact opposite in this church. I had used the remodeling of Baird Hall to move the American Flag from the closet there to the sanctuary where Old Glory would be safe from the dirt and dust of construction. Only one person said anything about that. That person noted to me that the flag was supposed to go on the left, not the right. So, really all was good.

            I do believe that we are a nation under God. However, I am not a Christian nationalist. My forebears who came on the Mayflower, John Alden namely, came to this land not to establish a theocracy—that is governance by the church. They came here in fact to escape that. They were separatists who hated the fact the King of England was also the head of the Anglican Church. The church was the government. Or, the government was the church.

            When my other forebear, John Adams, (Yes, I am one part of the Adams Family) worked on the new US Constitution the first order was to affirm and defend the freedom of religion in the First Amendment. On this premise, this country was founded.

            So, when I bring the American Flag into the church it is not to support the idea that the church should play any role in politics at all. Quite the opposite, it is to show that this nation must always answer to God in heaven. Every single one of our politicians no matter what they say or do today will have to answer to God tomorrow. We are a nation under God. And, politics are just politics. 


            When the writer of Hebrews talks about the double-edged sword, this may be the best example from today: We know from the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 that we are to go out and “make disciples of all nations.” That means that all peoples need to consider and study God. We are charged with making that happen. It does not mean that the church should somehow take over earthly governance of any nation. In fact it means the opposite. All we have to do is read the verse before 28:19 (something not a lot of people do) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . . .Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Earthly authority had been given over to Christ. That is why we have to tell people that God is in charge.

            This last week while driving out to Lihue for the Tuesday afternoon bible study, I was listening to a Christian radio station. A preacher was giving a sermon. He said that “Democrats are communists” and I will let you just imagine the rest. He just demonized one particular party to the point that it seemed that I would have to be the other political party if I were a Christian. What fascinated me during this “sermon” even more was that during the entire time of my listening, I did not hear the name of Jesus spoken once, nor did I hear anything quoted from the Bible. The “sermon” ended abruptly without prayer—which admittedly happens on the radio because of a lack of airtime or having to go to commercial. Yet, I was left truly wondering “How was that a sermon?” If one does not mention Jesus, the Bible, and would seem to be proffering the message of “Hate your neighbor,” and it really was hate-speech to my ear, how is that giving the Kingdom over to Jesus or making disciples of this nation? If I had been a non-Christian hearing that sermon, I would have been scared away from the faith.


            The first words from the scripture that was read today was “This is the living Word of God that energizes us, and will be the double-edged sword. . . .” This is a reference to Jesus, who is the living Word of God. Jesus himself talks about what this means in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, the he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.” Do you want to be a sheep or a goat? What is the difference? We have to continue to read.

            “Then the King will say to those at the right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, and I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” “As you have done to the least of these you have done unto me.”  

            According to our Lord Jesus Christ, what makes us “one nation under God?” Is it that the church has taken political power? Or is it that we have truly come to finally learn to love our neighbors and love God above all. We are not just espousing hate on the radio to further a political agenda, but we are living the lives of true disciples of Jesus. We are helping the “least of these” in our nation and are gaining our place in heaven.


            Verse 13 of the reading from Hebrews tells us that nothing is hidden from God’s eyes. When we say that we are “one nation under God” that means we know that God’s eyes are on us right now, looking down from the heavenly heights. And, we know that there will be a day of reckoning for how we as a nation have acted in God’s Creation. God is watching us right now! God is hearing every word I speak. God is able to judge the thoughts and “intentions” of our hearts while these words are being spoken! God knows what is on your laptop. God knows what is in your e-mails. God knows what you have paid in taxes. God has no need for creating investigative committees, indictments, grand juries, or police arrests. Nowhere in this Bible does it say that God has anything to do with such. There is no need for such because we are “one nation under God,” and we know that God is watching what we do!

            When I brought the flag to be up here on the altar and beneath the Cross, it was with the understanding: “God in heaven, judge us as a nation!” Have we been a good and faithful nation furthering your just cause in this your Creation? Judge us! We come before you with confession on our hearts. We lay the flag on the altar of God.


            The last part of our reading for today from Hebrews: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The verse right before that: “For we do not have a priest who is not able to sympathize with our weakness. . . .”

            Only a country that is truly “one nation under God” would have the humbleness of heart to approach God with the understanding that we know we have made a mess of things. We have screwed up. We have not followed God’s ways as a nation. We confess that and ask for grace from Our Lord.

            It is like saying to the person holding the double-edged sword, go ahead and dissect us! Find out what is wrong with us. Fix our faith. Do what you must Lord with that double-edge sword as long as it leads to the healing of our nation.

            We already sang the song “America, the Beautiful,” but hear these words again from the second stanza: “America, America, God mend thy every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in Law.”

            What other nation in the history of the World has begged God to dissect it, mend it, and heal it up again; knowing that the only one who can make a nation great is the Lord God himself? That is what it means to be a nation under God! You let God take mend your every flaw! Here, God, look at all the mistakes we have made. We ask for your forgiveness, mercy, and grace!


That is why we are a double-edgy nation!