Yes, this certainly IS a strange 4th of July! I’ve heard so many people say that — or something like that — almost everywhere I’ve been (with my mask firmly in place and six feet away).
No big cookouts. No gatherings to enjoy fireworks. No parties by the pool.
Yet, there is much to celebrate on this holiday — or Holy Day, as the Book of Common Prayer calls it (along with only one other civic holiday, Thanksgiving).
The Declaration of Independence lifts up several noble, and indeed, holy, ideals worthy of celebration:
- the value of human freedom (as opposed to all forms of oppression);
- the virtue of caring for all creation (as opposed to King George, the one who “plundered our seas, ravished our coasts” for his own ends);
- care for the immigrant (as opposed to King George’s “enacting laws that obstructed the welcome of foreigners”);
- the recognition that this nation is founded upon the ideals of the “we,” not the “I,” as “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Of course, ideals are often just that — ideals, not reality. We are now acutely aware that not “all men are created equal” as we have seen played out in our more accurate reporting of the history of racial injustice in our country and as we are aware that “all men” has, for the most part been limited to just that — literally, men.
So, we have work to do, America.
And that is perhaps our greatest gift — that we have been invited, compelled by our own Declaration of Independence to hold our government accountable to upholding the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness — (for all, not just the majority!) — and when it does not, that “we the people” must alter it. (The Declaration of Independence actually includes the option of abolishing this government when it no longer holds to these ideals).
Therefore, may each one of us celebrate our beautiful America and the noble ideals which were laid at the foundation of our identity as a nation, but have yet to be fully accomplished. And may each one of us realign ourselves to this foundational ideal that ALL people might be free of exploitation, oppression, and tyranny; and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is available to all.
Rev. Linda McDermott
Associate Pastor of Adult Education