Almighty God, You have left us the responsibility of this land, we call the Untied States of America. We pray that we may always prove ourselves a peoplemindful of your favor, worthy of the task, and ever discerning of your will. Bless our land with honorable and fruitful industry, with sound learning and a respect for all human beings. Gracious God, save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every sinful way that pulls us apart. Defend our freedom within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. Gracious God, help us find ways to come together, help us find ways to offer up the many gifts you have blessed us with to serve our common good. Fill with your spirit of wisdom those to whom we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home and that by loving our neighbors as you have loved us, we may show forth your will and example among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness. In times of fear, struggle and suffering, let us not lose our faith in you. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Adapted from BCP pg. 820
I have often said that it is such a blessing that we are not all alike, what a boring world that would be. There has not been a time I can think of when that is more true than now. The congregation that I serve is a wonderful example of that. We gather as a people from all walks of life, varied backgrounds, life experience, and political leanings.
Recently we lost one of the pillars of our church, Anne Leach. As many of our parishioners shared love and reflections about her, one of our most ardent democratic members, said with such a warm and loving smile, now there is a republican I really loved.
We gather around the word and table, that is central to our faith. As the faith leader in this community no one would be surprised at my political leanings, but I don't preach them. I believe that it is my call to remind us of our role in public life. We are called as Episcopalians to engage scripture, tradition and reason, as we make our decisions. Within the context of kindness and mutual respect I have had some really wonderful conversations with those that come to different conclusions than I have. Over the years I find myself going to the Baptismal Covenant more often than not.
"Will you seek and serve Christ in all person, loving your neighbor as yourself? "
"I will with God's help."
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? "
"I will with God's help."
There is no way literally, that I or we, could do this without God's help. I would go so far as to say, we need others in our lives as well. We are human after all, God made us that way. When we are able to gather together and call God, or any form of the divine to be in our midst, we can come together and know what is important, how to treat each other, how to "be" in the world. But, as we lift our heads, gather our belongings and wander back out into the world, we come to many different conclusions as to what is best. What is best in our towns, on our school boards, in our states and of course for our country.
Long before I became interested in politics or even organized religion, human nature had caused this difference to create division. The divisions are normally around areas of great passion and great need. It is often hard to not find yourself on one side or the other. Recently, people from differing beliefs, people from both sides of this divide, have asked me why or how could anyone believe a certain thing. We come to different conclusions and have different ideas about where to go from here. We live in a country that allows us to exercise our freedom in many different ways. What I believe is that we are all valued, loved children of God. So where do we go from here?
We pray, it's what we do. We are all passionate about different things. I would ask us all to remember that when we think of God's law for us, we are called to; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." BCP, pg. 851 We will all trip up on this mission. We will all fall short. Our faith teaches us to dust ourselves off, or know that by Gods' grace we are loved beyond measure, and we go forth to be the version of ourselves that God most needs us to be that day.
We pray, that's what we do. The prayer above is adapted from the prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, For our country. I used it in the sermon last week and have been praying with it. The theology and meaning have not been changed, I updated some of the language and fleshed out words like liberty, heritage, obedience to thy law. Sometimes when I pray it helps to write or type prayers out. It helps to really wrestle with the words.
We are each God's beloved children, born with special gifts, talents and our own story. We all have a different lived experience and see the world through a lens like no other. This is a blessing. How often do we really think of it that way? As we move forward into this new time in our country, let us remember who we are. Let us cherish our difference, let us learn to communicate in loving and respectful ways and let us know not be pulled off track by our fear or anger. God is with us. God is calling us to a new time, and a new path. God is calling some of us to be more active and more conscious of who we are and what's important. But, as christians, we are called to pray, it's what we do!