But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them - Hebrews 11:16
This weekend, many will beginJuly 4th celebrations. There will be trips to the shore, picnics, barbecues, family get-togethers, ballgames, and fireworks. In the midst of it all, no matter one's political leanings, I suspect many feel we are not the nation we could or should be. A divide has been growing for decades that seems to have reached a fever pitch. The politically motivated shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalice should have been a signal to us all. It hasn't been. The ugliness and animosity continue on the political left and the political right. It is not productive.
I have no idea how matters will play out in Washington. The issues that confront us as a nation are serious - health care, the treatment of refugees and immigrants, budget decisions that have enormous impact, especially on the poor, and a host of others. As people of faith we can neither ignore nor be silent about such essential matters.
The Baptismal Covenant asks:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?
To each of these questions we answer, I will with God's help.
Our baptismal promises compel us to both speak out and to take action.
These same baptismal promises, however, call upon us to see both the Christ and the humanity in every person we meet; to respect each person's dignity. It is difficult to do this if we engage in discourse that makes sweeping generalizations about others and fixes labels that essentially dehumanize them.
Independence Day is designated as a Major Feast on The Episcopal Church calendar. This is an opportunity for all of us to reclaim the important value of "civil discourse" in which we find ways to engage in serious conversation and debate about vitally important issues while simultaneously remembering that we are called to see and honor the image of God in each other, even those with whom we disagree - perhaps especially those with whom we disagree.
I believe our congregations are a good place to engage in caring conversations that address vital issues while also insisting on civility.
I encourage us all to pray for the health of our nation this weekend and through Independence Day, and to commit to our baptismal promises and civil discourse that reflects both our essential Christian and American values.
May God bless you and yours.