- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin as guest preacher at the Washington National Cathedral.

Around the time of our nation's bicentennial I visited the beautiful country of New Zealand doing some workshops. There I met the archbishop of Auckland, John McCarthy, now deceased. I have never forgotten an image he used for the United States of America.

Since I have moved to Washington, the image has returned many times to fascinate my imaginings.

"Dan," he said, "It is not by accident that both coasts of your country have been built up. You are a bridge." A bridge? A bridge from east to west? From old to new? From Europe to Asia? … But no one lives on a bridge. It is for trafficking, marketing, movement. No one stands still for very long on a bridge… . I wonder today: As a nation are we a bridge in the mind of God? From here, now, to what? And since we are received as such a powerful nation, do we need a better theology of power to answer the question? …

The Scriptures today seem to challenge us as a nation to be so much more, if only we would acknowledge that our architect and maker is God… . Since revolutionary days we have sought freedom and the way of peace. Even during our worst war, our own Civil War, we sought to expand human freedom. Caught in the warring expansion of the world we have sought the road of leadership beyond selfishness to a broader vision of the world… .

Because of our founding principles, powerful structures, civilian government and desires for noble character, we are constantly trying to move from being a people of violence to being a people of virtue. We know our power comes from within us not from outside us. Once power is seen as something outside ourselves we have moved away from God and we are moving toward destruction.

Those who have preceded us lived by faith and also died in faith… . Instead of immediate satisfaction to every whim, they sought satisfaction in learning and in hard work. Instead of the acquisition of wealth, economic surplus and wider markets they hoped for integrity, mutual trust and contentment in family life.

Never ashamed to be rooted in God and called by their God, they prepared for us a place; yet they looked beyond the place they were, because they never forgot they were once aliens themselves. Instead, they would always be sojourners, bridging with justice an outreach to the unwanted child and befriending the foreigner… .

The Gospel speaks in futuristic terms because it wants us to see everything new. Authentic Christian awareness will look beyond friends and come to love enemies… . Such is the calling to be God's household, children of our heavenly Father, truly members of one body, the Body of Christ still living and active in the world.

Jesus' command to those who would be his disciples cuts to every human heart for it cuts through loves and hatreds, predilection and prejudice… . We may not be perfect the perfect citizen, the perfect Christian, parent or child. That does not matter to the Lord. We need be only like our Father in loving. This is how we prove ourselves as Christian Americans in a new millennium: We prove ourselves by proving to others that we care, we love. We prove we are children of our heavenly Father.

I would like to call forth parents, theologians, teachers and CEO's of industry, true believers everywhere here in America, both Christians and believers of other faiths. Together let us reflect on the power of this nation and develop a theology of power, so that as Americans we may know our true future destiny. America: a powerful bridge to the future.

On this millennium celebration of Independence Day we are still mindful of the words of Benjamin Franklin: Those who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.

Next week: a sermon given at a D.C. congregation.

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