Friday, July 3, 2020

Interdependence Day

Devotion for Being Apart -
July 3

This summer, we will share new devotions from time to time,
and invite you to browse through devotions that have been posted at Pastor Kara's blog.

This 4th of July all the things that make tomorrow feel like a holiday will be absent. For going on 80 years there has been a parade down the main street in my neighborhood, featuring floats designed by local businesses, the elementary and middle school principals perched on convertibles, patriot essay contest winners waving out car windows, boy scouts on a giant structure, bands on flatbeds, and the bright red fire truck at the end, followed immediately by all the neighborhood kids who decked out their bikes with streamers and balloons pedaling furiously and ringing their bicycle bells. The whole parade folds in on itself as the spectators fill the street and flow down the hill into into the park.  There, amidst yard games and bands playing, speeches given on the bandstand and scattered tents and coolers, people set up and stay the whole day. That's what Independence Day looks like in my neighborhood.

But not this year.  No picnics. No fireworks. No parades.

So it made me think about the gift of this time. In stripping us of all the rituals we're accustomed to, we're given the chance to look closer, to reassess the meaning of the traditions we practice, to let that meaning meet us anew.

These phrases have been circling in my mind today.   "One nation under God" and "Liberty and justice for all."
Of all the ways human being group themselves, we've decided to group ourselves this way - as these united states - so we are building something together that takes all of us.  We do our part, each of us in this collective, by voting for our leaders, and by speaking out and working for change when our nation's behavior doesn't match our ideals.  We do our part by helping our neighbors and investing in our communities, and by reexamining our history and being purposeful about our future.  We do our part by welcoming each other no matter how different we may be, because our diversity is our strength.  Among the foundational principals of this nation are that we are stronger for our differences, and also that patriotism is loving your country so much you're willing to keep working to make your country what it can be.

In declaring independence from Britain, this new baby country was declaring Interdependence with each other. Our founders were daring to risk the idea of a democracy where everyone has a voice, every voice matters, and we all work to uphold the dignity and liberty of one another.  The premise is that we need one another, and for better and worse, we are in this with each other.  We are Americans - you are, and I am, and so are the people who are pretending there is no virus, and the people who are hoarding power, and the people in overlooked and underresourced communities, the wealthy and the poor, the sick and the well, the young and the old, strangers nearby and friends far away.  We are Americans together - brand new arrivals and people who can trace their origins back hundreds of years to ancestors brought as prisoners on slave ships, or to immigrants seeking a new life on pilgrim ships, or to conquerors arriving on explorer ships to stake a foreign monarch's claim, or people whose foremothers and fathers watched all these ships land on the shores of the place they belonged to already.  It's messy to be a nation, especially a democracy.  It's hard--and it never gets easier.

But our nation is set up to keep adapting, keep learning, keep changing.  The Declaration of Independence states,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Read the whole Declaration of Independence here).
This is an ongoing project, America. It's a daily choice.

Perhaps this 4th of July, in the vacuum of our typical traditions and distractions, we might spend a moment in prayer - gratitude for all the good this nation has been and can be, and grief for all the ways our nation has undermined its own goals, and failed to live up to its own ideals.

Then underneath both the gratitude and the grieving, perhaps there is a pause, a chance to remember that in belonging to God and each other, fundamentally as human beings, and faithfully as followers of Christ, we can live our identity as Americans from this deeper place.

We trust not in the strength of human will to do the right thing, or in the reliability of well-run systems of order, but in God who has made us in God's own image, all of us, and claims us for life with and for one another.  Being a person (partner, parent, child, friend, coworker, leader, member, neighbor, employee, American...) can come from a rootedness in and trust in that belonging to God and each other.  Did you know that the Declaration of Independence ends with these words? "...with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."  (Aka, we belong to God and we belong to each other).

Today Bishop Rob Wright of Alanta shared this excerpt from Langston Hughe's poem, "Let America Be America Again":


“Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love.
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!”

Happy Interdependence Day.

Perhaps tonight before we go to bed, whatever time that is in each of our homes, we can pray in this way, and so join our souls with each other and the people of the whole earth:

God, help me see my place alongside my siblings in this country.
Help me recognize each person as sacred.

Release me from contempt.
Release me from pride and myopia.
Release me from fear and self-protection.

Free me for love.
Free me for repentance.
Free me for connection.
Free me for participation.
Free me for hope.

May I see myself within your Kingdom of belonging that transcends all.
May I see myself held in body of Christ,
empowered by your Spirit to join your way of love in all circumstances.

May I see myself within the communities I've chosen,
and the families I've come from, and created.

May I see myself within my nation,
and may I see with your gaze of love all others here with me,
alongside me, in these United States.
God bless America.

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