Happy Memorial Day weekend! As we gather with family and friends around the first barbecues of the season, may we remember the women and men of the United States Armed Forces who have given their lives in service to our country. We thank them for their sacrifice and hold their families in our hearts.

This holiday weekend we will see lots of flags flying from the porch rails or decorating the parade floats as they make their way down the route while candy is thrown to the kids wearing their red, white and blue in the crowds. We will hear patriotic songs from the lawns of the Capitol to the radio airwaves to the neighborhood campfires as marshmallows are roasted and toasted. We will walk the flag-draped cemeteries and hear once again the roll call of those who lost their lives from war to war. We will remember and we will pray that never again will such sacrifice be needed.

And if this is our prayer, then we must go forth and make it happen. No more Christian nationalism, or nationalism of any nature. No more competition and who is greater than who. No more. No more.

To ensure that no life is ever again lost on the battlefields of the earth, we must learn to lay down our weapons and make way for peace. We must learn the hard work of reconciliation – of forgiveness and repentance. We must learn to value every human life as one created and loved by God, and we must be willing to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. We must learn the way of love.

My friends, patriotism in and of itself is not bad or dangerous. To be thankful to live where we live and to pray for God’s goodness upon our nation is a good and righteous act. To honor and remember those who sacrificed themselves for us is noble work. But to turn all of that to smug superiority that looks down its nose upon those who look different than us, talk different than us, eat different from us, came from different parts of the world from us – such is not patriotism but ignorance, bias and flat out hatred.

And such is not of God.

I truly pray for the day when we will honor the sacrifice of those who gave their all by building a world where such sacrifice is no longer necessary. I work for the day when humankind shall sit at the table of God and break bread together in true harmony. I live for the day when neighbor shall dance with neighbor at the campfires of peace and children shall laugh, trusting that tomorrow shall rise upon them without the threat of violence or warfare.

I wish you a truly blessed Memorial Day weekend. And as we ask God to bless America, may we seek, too, God’s blessing upon every nation of people upon the earth – for these, too, belong to God and of God and from God.