I'm taking a moment from the midst of some vacation time to reflect on this day on which we celebrate our nation's independence.
With independence our founders engaged a great project to work out what a democratic republic might look like in real life. They did so boldly and with vision, but imperfectly, of course, since slavery would endure for a long time to come, but that's another story. We're part of that project in our own time; a project which brings to each of us the responsibility of citizenship.
A few weeks back on Memorial Day weekend I led a prayer of thanksgiving for Heroic Service during our Sunday Eucharists. It is from our Book of Common Prayer. After thanking God for those “who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy, we are led to pray “that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines.”
So, according to this prayer, a key aspect of citizenship is a restlessness until all of us together live in right relationship with one another, and a commitment to learn and practice the disciplines that make for our participation in and responsibility for a strong democratic republic. As we feel our patriotism, let's remember that as people baptized into Christ to be citizens of God's kingdom we are called to participate in making America more of what it can be and aspires to be. To borrow a phrase I've seen on bumper stickers, “Freedom isn't Free.”
A case in point is the struggle of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Trans-gendered and Queer people to share in that freedom.
Over the last week or so Gay Pride celebrations and parades have been held in major cities across the nation, and this coming weekend in Bellingham that celebration takes place.
The genesis of this celebration is the 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City, and the protest movement that took root there. That raid was the last straw for a portion of our population who decided then and there that they were tired of living a lie and of being forced to hide, and would no longer meekly suffer harrassment or even worse. In reality, there were those there that in that day of decision who were heroes, who ventured much for the cause of liberty, and many have come after them.
This movement has made great strides, but the recent mass shooting in Orlando at a gay bar is a reminder of the stress that GLBTQ people still live with each day, wondering if the environments in which they find themselves are completely safe for them. There are stories of love and courage and hope coming out of Orlando in the aftermath of this atrocity which have as their common theme that hate does not win, but love wins. There are people in the GLBTQ community who show us this truth, and as they do so, I'm struck by how much Jesus must love them, as he himself went outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem among the outcasts of his day to empty himself for them and for all of us, taking the form of a servant.
So on this Fourth of July, may God make us grateful for the liberties we now enjoy, and restless until all share them. May God make us grateful for those whose who have ventured much for our liberties. May God sustain us in a commitment to the disciplines necessary to gain the benefits of freedom to more and more people.
And to all GLBTQ people who celebrate this weekend, know that God loves you, and that you are precious in Jesus' sight.
17. For the Nation
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the
earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the
strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in
accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.