Today's Lectionary Text
Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The Lord looks down from heaven;
Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
Our soul waits for the Lord;
Today Americans will celebrate Independence Day with parades, family gatherings, and barbecues. This year July 4th falls on Sunday, so many of us will begin our day in worship. Everything will be red, white and blue, from clothes to food to the fireworks which will light up the night skies. Those fireworks will be set to music we hear every Independence Day; hits from Neil Diamond, Lee Greenwood, Bruce Springsteen, a John Phillip Sousa march or two, and “God Bless America.”
As God's people who live in America, of course, we ask God to bless our nation. We’re proud of the United States. But when our pride comes at someone else's expense, healthy patriotism drifts towards unhealthy nationalism.
In 1945 George Orwell wrote the essay “Notes on Nationalism” and offered this definition of the difference between patriotism and nationalism:
“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”
When America was founded, it was explicitly organized to separate religion from affairs of state. We are free to worship how we choose or not at all. But for we who are followers of Jesus who live in America, we live as both disciples and citizens.
As patriotic citizens, today is a day to celebrate America and take pride in our nation. But before we are citizens, we are disciples of Jesus. As disciples, Christ calls us to love our neighbor and see our brothers and sisters in Christ as beloved children of God. God's love transcends borders, and so should ours. As the psalmist wrote, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.” Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this lies within the words of "This Is My Song," written by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness.
On this Independence Day, deck yourself out in red, white, and blue. Eat, drink, laugh, and celebrate. And I invite you to pray Georgia Harkness' verse from "This Is My Song."
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
and hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations,
myself I give thee; let they will be done.
-Georgia Harkness (UMH 437)
-Pastor Michael Turner
Osage City and Reading, KS UMCs
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