Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Independence Day

Independence Day, July 4
It is worth noting that what we honor today is called, “Independence Day,” and not “It is Finished Day.”  The Declaration of Independence was the starting gate, not the finish line.  We must always be wary of saying, “We have done the thing.”  Because, by our very nature, we are always doing this thing of being America.  Sometimes we do it well; and sometimes we fail miserably.
But the idea that makes our country different from what has gone before is that the very goal was to be something else.  Something that has never existed to our knowledge.  Which is why you hear people say things like, the great American experiment.  We’re making this up as we go.  And as any scientist will tell you, most experiments fail.  But the American experiment is different because of the goals enshrined in our founding documents.  From the start, we have been striving to be something different, something better: a more perfect union, if you will.
We can see this in the text of the hymn #719, O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, when we sing the line, “America, America, God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul with self control, thy liberty in law.”  God mend thine every flaw.  It comes right out and acknowledges we have flaws, and we are asking God to help us fix them.
That is the thing we should keep in mind as we celebrate the Fourth of July, our Independence Day.  Because we are not perfect.  But at our best, we are striving to be a more perfect union, a more decent place.  A more loving and accepting beacon on a hill, though we are not perfect.
In the first reading, from Deuteronomy, we heard that God “executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
God’s people are to care for the stranger, because they themselves were once the strangers.  They know what it is like.  In a similar way, the reason we care about democracy around the world is because we once served under a tyrannical king.  We have been there, and we know what it is like, and that is why we have a history of fighting for other people’s freedom.
But of course, we have our own history of subjugating and enslaving other people, and the racism that continues from it to this day.  We haven’t always lived up to the goal of ensuring freedom for others, even though we know what it is like to live under a tyrant.  This is a flaw that God is mending.  We are better than we were, but not as good as we will one day hopefully be.  
In the meantime, let us renew our efforts to fashion a country where everyone is free, where everyone is welcome, where liberty is law.  This experiment is still ongoing, and—against all odds—it has not yet failed.  Let us continue to pray that God will bless this land, and its people, because the land of the free has not always been free.  May we let freedom ring, for everyone, everywhere.

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