This coming Sunday we will mark our nation’s Independence Day celebration. We will hear and sing hymns that celebrate our love of nation and love of God. It is right and good to celebrate such a day.
Yet, even as we celebrate, we also recognize the ways in which this holiday is painful for many. We recognize that the United States came into being only because foreign empires seized land from native dwellers. We confess that our nation’s infrastructure was first built by people who were brought to these shores as slaves and indentured servants. We acknowledge that “the land of the free,” did not mean freedom for all.
America is aspirational. At its best, our nation is an inclusive, diverse, melting pot of peoples from across the globe who yearn to dwell in a society that lifts up all people and promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, our nation is not always at its best. So we mark this holiday as a way of reminding ourselves and others that we can do better, we can be better, we can aspire to become the America we always hoped to be.
Recently I ran across a poem by Langston Hughes, the famous Harlem poet, written in 1935, which speaks so eloquently about our nation today – almost a century later! It is titled, “Let America Be America Again.” I urge you to listen to it as we head into this holiday weekend. It is a bit long, five minutes, but beautiful and powerful. You can listen to one recitation of it here:
Then, on Sunday, I hope you will join me in worship to confess our human brokenness that still lingers and to celebrate with compassion and joy the ways in which we glimpse the promises of God’s Beloved Community here in America.