Beloved in Christ,
This Sunday happens to be Independence Day. While the Book of Common Prayer does not allow for the readings and collect for July 4th take precedence over those appointed for Pentecost (Proper 9), many of our congregations will no doubt acknowledge the day in public worship. It is a day to appropriately acknowledge the almost unimaginable privilege we enjoy by living in this country, and to give thanks to and for those who have made this possible. It is also important to bear in mind that as followers of Jesus, our primary allegiance is not to flag or country, but to Jesus Christ, whom we confess as Lord of Lords, and to remember that our primary identity is not national, ethnic, or family group, but as the new people we have been made by water and the Holy Spirit. Those lines of allegiance and identity have too often been blurred in and by the church, and the blurring has made us complicit in any number of sinful distortions of Jesus' message.
For all there is to give thanks for, we know that the very freedoms and privileges we celebrate have never been fully available to all God's children who call this country home. "Liberty and justice for all" continues to be an elusive dream. Byron Rushing, who serves our church as the Vice President of the House of Deputies, regularly reminds the church that the collect appointed for July 4 includes the phrase, "the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and us." Of course, there was a large population of enslaved African and Indigenous peoples for whom the founders did not in fact win liberty, and atrocities against those groups and others continued long after independence from Great Britain was secured. If you want to include a prayer for the holiday in your Sunday liturgy, Byron wisely recommends we use "For the Nation" on page 258 instead.
One of the strange things about being a follower of Jesus is that we are called to engage fully with the life of the place where we are planted, and at the same time acknowledge that our true home is in the Kingdom of God, which we pray daily will come on earth as it is in heaven. Our celebration this weekend is an opportunity to give thanks for what we have been given, acknowledge the limitations of any form of human community, and re-commit ourselves to working with the Spirit to fully bring about God's perfect reign of love, peace, justice, joy, and true freedom.
Grace and Peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in MN