Today all across Canada people will be making speeches about the freedom we enjoy. In three days' time on July the 4th. Americans will hear the same speeches in celebration of their independence. We have a wonderful freedom to drive our cars anywhere we choose. But that freedom depends on the faithfulness of others not to swerve into our lane for a head on crash. We can buy what we want, and put anything we don't want in the garbage. But our freedom to enjoy clean parks and streets would be ruined by others dropping garbage in the wrong place. Any one of us can start a business and hire people as employees. But their freedom depends on being treated fairly and being paid on time.
Things can very easily go wrong. A man was free to do any other work anywhere across Canada, but he accepted a job supervising the water supply in the township of Walkerton, and for years he was paid well to do this. When he failed to be faithful, six people died from water contamination and hundreds were very seriously ill.
Another man was paid to check the safety of boats on Georgian Bay, but for eighteen years he failed to check a tour boat. It was not safe or seaworthy, and when it sank in high winds two children were drowned and many more could have died in the freezing water.
We also depend on the faithfulness of immigration officials to keep criminals out of Canada. And a nurse who is tired at the end of a twelve hour shift could easily fail to change an IV, or give the wrong dosage in a medication. Officials and medical personnel are free to take any other work they choose, but "No one who puts a hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." In a ploughing match it is disastrous to be distracted or to look back and wonder how well one is doing.
Similarly the Lord allows us to choose anyone of hundred of different tasks that need to be done in his church. The business of the church is loving, and we are given wonderful love talents to invest (as in the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30) anyway we choose. One goes to love in a L'Arche community for the handicapped. Another freely goes to work in a leper colony. Mollie and I chose to serve in India. Every congregation needs someone to mind the building and appliances. Some choose to do the catering. Others teach Sunday School. What is not acceptable is to forget to complete faithfully what we have agreed to do. We can always give notice that we want to invest our love talents in other way, and the Lord respects our freedom.
But in one congregation I served someone offered to mind the envelopes and income tax statements. For two or three years no reports were sent as required to the government, and eventually the charitable status of the congregation was lost and dozens of people lost the freedom to get an income tax refund. No doubt the person had family responsibilities and was busy here and there, but by failing to complete a commitment the person was proved unfit to do that responsible task in the church.
So on this Canada Day each of us could review and give thanks for the
immense freedoms that we have. Then we should ask ourselves what we want
to commit ourselves to do both as citizens of Canada and as members of
the Lord's church here in Kingston. But whatever we choose to do "No one
who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit the kingdom of God."