Happy 4th of July! I hope you all have a good holiday celebrating with the people you want to be around – or by yourself if that’s what you wish. Stay safe, keep your pets indoors, and have some red, white and blue Jell-O creation.

 

To be honest, I’m really struggling with what to say about this holiday. I’m not sure I like the 4th of July very much – at least, not anymore. As a child it was all about the sparklers in the backyard and the barbecues with neighbors. The dads grilled and the moms talked and the kids played games, running through the various yards having fun. We wore our red, white and blue and sang, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” When evening came, we piled into our cars to head to Fairfax High School for the fireworks. In 1976 we got seats in the football stadium to see the historic 200th anniversary celebration. But most years, we put our blankets or chairs on the curb along Rte. 50/29 and watched from there. My sister always hated the duds. They were too loud.

 

But now, now it’s not so innocent and fun. Maybe it’s the years of debating with and being criticized by church members for not choosing patriotic songs during worship, or for not allowing the children to say the Pledge of Allegiance during worship or for not displaying the American flag front and center in the worship space.

 

Or maybe it’s that I think this holiday has been hijacked by Christian nationalists and the rise of xenophobia in our land. Or the way I believe the word “patriot” has been co-opted by an extreme base of the political arena and used as a sword against any who would define it differently. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because our country is founded on the principles of independence and personal rights and, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” – but seemingly at the expense of the common good and the other, or so it seems to me these days.

 

One of the reasons I am a pastor is because I believe in a God who created humanity NOT for independence, but interdependence – to need God and to need one another. We were created to care about God and to care about each other and to work and to live in interdependent relationships that sought the greater good of all and not just the few, where being poor or hungry or homeless was not an individual moral affliction to be condemned but was a societal wrong and ill that needed to be cared about and eradicated. Where the stronger members were called to  take care of the weaker members and where God was a God of all nations, all races, all skin colors, all people. Where God had created EVERY human being as worthy of love and of equal dignity and value. Where the true mark of a human being was not their money, or their education, or their property, or their gender identity or their race or their sexual orientation, or their job or their accomplishments or their titles or their power or their family of origin but was instead their humility and gentleness, patience and kindness, goodness and faithfulness, serving not being served and loving as Christ had loved.

 

Please hear me, I am thankful that I live in this land that has afforded me the life and the freedom that I have. But I am aware that not every citizen of this nation is afforded the same life and freedom. On paper it is theirs. But in reality, we struggle to realize this promise. And the more I grow in faith towards God and in love for one another, the more I believe that I am because we are, and we are because Christ is (African ubuntu). My life is only as good as the life I help my neighbor to have. And all people are my neighbors.

 

So, this year instead of singing patriotic songs or wearing my red, white and blue, waving sparklers or fighting my way through the crowds for a good spot to watch the fireworks – instead of any of this, I am going to recommit myself to living interdependently with my neighbors and to seeking justice on behalf of those we have marginalized, dehumanized, deemed less worthy. I want to find a way to contribute to the common good so that we can all truly experience freedom and, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

Happy 4th of July!

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