Dear Church family,
July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays, in part because it falls near my own birthday (true confessions!). But I love the picnics and the music. I love the fireworks and the bunting and the parades. As Americans, we know that we are grateful to have been born in this country and we are grateful for the freedoms and privileges we know here. I love that the 4th of July gives us the opportunity to remember this. We are Americans and we are also Christians and, as Christians, our patriotism looks slightly different than others, in two specific ways.

First, Jesus had a complicated relationship with nationhood and he asks us to as well. Famously, he told Pilate that “his kingdom is not of this world” meaning that the visible kingdom was secondary to the true kingdom of God. As those who follow him, we can have great love for our country but we always remember that there is a greater country to come, a true home that is waiting for us. Our current home cannot compete.

Second, Jesus showed love and concern for those outside of his country and culture. In John’s gospel, we read that Jesus went out of his way to travel through Samaria, an area Jews dreaded filled with people Jews hated. While there, Jesus sought out a woman at the bottom rung of Samaritan society. In doing these things, Jesus makes it crystal clear that we should love our own but we also are called to love and care for those outside of us. Our country is blessed. As Christians, we know that other countries are blessed as well for our God is that great! Even as we seek his continued blessing for our country, we seek his continued blessing upon other countries too. And we do that because Jesus came into this world for them as well.

I hope that you have some time over the next few days to relax, to connect with friends, and to celebrate and pray for our country. I hope you will celebrate and pray for other parts of the world as well, for God is working in and amongst all of us. One of my favorite prayers for this time of year is the beautiful hymn “This Is My Song”. It is a prayer for our land and it is a prayer for the world that God loves. Some of its words are listed below but you can also listen to the prayer in the video.

May God bless you during this holiday week.

This Is My Song

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations, A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is; Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating, With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover, And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations, A song of peace for their land and for mine.

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 thy will be done.