02 Jul Reflections of the 4th of July
While Pastor Michelle is on vacation, we are reposting some of the “best of” her blogposts. This post – a reflection no the 4th of July, was from July 2, 2017:
This year was a very low-key 4th of July celebration at my house. Having lived in England and attended Wimbledon 20 years ago, watching a little of the tennis tournament is often part of my July 4th routine, as was the case this year. We had done our grilling earlier in the weekend when the weather was better, and the leftovers were delicious, especially alongside a cold slice of watermelon. Then, Monday night I watched the PBS presentation of “A Capital Fourth”. It was fun and inspiring and it got me to thinking….
There are many veterans and active-duty military members among my family, friends and congregation. I was struck again this year by the sacrifices that have been and continue to be made by so many. My children never knew one of their grandfathers because he was killed in Vietnam, so like a lot of families, we have been personally impacted by the cost of this country maintaining its freedom and helping others secure freedom around the world. Those costs come in so many ways. My brief visits to Walter Reed remind me that the veterans who return from war are never the same. Some scars are visible while others are not, but for many, the wounds never heal.
My reflections this July 4th have been centered around the question of whether we, as a nation, are living up to the sacrifices that are being made on our behalf. Our service men and women are losing lives and limbs, bodies are wracked with pain, wars produce mental and emotional anguish, moms and dads are robbed of their children, and children are robbed of their moms and dads—and yet on our own soil we seem to be struggling with basic human decency and civility. There is always a lot of evidence of what is wrong: the prison system, road rage, racism, drug abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, the wage gap, gender inequality, sex trafficking, terrorism—take your pick. The news is depressing and hopelessness seems like a reasonable response.
But, it’s not. Hopelessness is neither reasonable nor faithful, at least not for the people of God. It’s not being a “Pollyanna” to insist that God is still at work in the world just as God has always been at work in the world, and God’s purposes are always good—to bring healing and wholeness to minds and bodies that are sick and broken; to bring good out of evil; to redeem us and give us hope; to bring peace and comfort in the midst of suffering and despair. We need to be reminded that the tomb is still empty—not just on Easter Sunday but today, in the midst of today’s headlines. Yes, people are afraid and they are angry. The world is changing and nothing is going to turn back the clock. The question is, Church, what are we doing about it? We must not look elsewhere to find solutions or a path forward. We must be part of the solution and the path forward.
We do that both individually and collectively. Our speech must be respectful, truthful, and encouraging of others or we have no moral ground from which to shine the light on the baseness and deception that permeates much of our public discourse. Our actions must be rooted in love such that it leads us to think of others before ourselves, to care about the needs of those who are different, and to do the hard work of listening and learning about and from one another that is essential for mutual understanding and appreciation.
Yes, on our national independence day it is appropriate to celebrate our country and to thank those who help keep us safe and free. It is also appropriate to strive to be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf. But, more than that—much more than that—it is right that we strive to be worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, not just today but every day.
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Yours for the Kingdom,