July in Philadelphia can be pretty hot and “sticky.” I’ve never been there, but if it is anything like Northern Chicagoland, I’m sure it’s pretty oppressive.
Oppressive is how the delegates of the 2nd Continental Congress might have described their relationship with Great Britain in July of 1776. So oppressive, in fact, that they decided that they would dissolve their relationship with Great Britain and establish their own government. This was the birth of the United States of America.
The congress met in what is known today as “Independence Hall” in Philadelphia. As the calendar turned to July and the weather grew warmer and more humid, they debated and made long speeches and took numerous votes on whether to publically declare their independence from Great Britain. While the actual War of Independence had been fought for more than a year by July of 1776, no formal declaration of independence had been put forth.
I can only imagine how those days unfolded. Seemingly endless speeches and debates for what was, admittedly, a vitally important matter. But consider that Thomas Jefferson noted it was already 78 degrees by 6:00 a.m. and the day most likely would only get hotter! And the windows of Independence Hall had to be kept closed due to swarms of horseflies from the stable next door. Tempers had to have been short. And yet, by the end of the day of July 2, a vote was taken and by a tally of 12-0 with one abstention, independence from Great Britain was officially declared by the United States. Two days later, the delegates began to sign the declaration, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
These delegates, representing 2.5 million people, made their public declaration of their independence from a ruling authority. In doing so, they acknowledged that there is a supreme authority that supersedes all other authority.
The Declaration of Independence concludes, in part, with this acknowledgement:
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states….
However, the declaration wasn’t enough. Saying they were free was one thing and it was an important thing. But, as often is the case, blood would need to be shed to secure that freedom.
This is also the case for human beings. We are born into captivity, under the ruling authority of sin, death and the power of the devil. It is the longing of every person to free of this oppressive authority. But it cannot be done by our own reason or strength.
There is only one supreme authority and that is God. God is also the only one who can make us free. And our independence from sin, death, and the power of the devil only comes through the shed blood of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ took all our sins upon Himself and suffered the punishment that we deserved on the cross. He shed His blood and died so that we could live and live in freedom.
Our spiritual Declaration of Independence from sin, death, and the power of the devil is a public profession – by word and action – of our belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are free. Now it is up to us – by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament – to live in that freedom.
Declare your independence today!