Independence Day 2019
The annual commemoration of our nation's independence is an opportunity for us to offer thanks to God for the civil and religious liberties we enjoy, and also to beseech him for their continuance in our day and for generations to come.
A recent Facebook posting I saw offered this helpful historical vignette: "In 1826, as the United States prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of declaring independence, the city of New York invited John Jay to participate. Jay was forced to decline the invitation, due to poor health, but he offered this response to the city on June 29, 1826: 'I cannot forbear to embrace the opportunity afforded by the present occasion, to express my earnest hope that peace, happiness, and prosperity enjoyed by our beloved country, may induce those who direct her national councils to recommend a general and public return of praise and thanksgiving to Him from whose goodness these blessings descend. The most effectual means of securing the continuance of civil and religious liberties, is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the source from which they flow.'"
Jay's words are a helpful reminder that God is the giver of every good gift, and it is to him that we must direct our praise and gratitude.
In addition, let us also recall that - in addition to gratitude for past blessings - another duty of every Christian is to actively beseech God that he would bless, protect, and direct our country and leaders both presently and in the future. The Book of Common Prayer obeys this Biblical mandate by including prayers for our country in our daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. And you as you may have noticed in your prayers this past Thursday, after first noting that it was though the “mighty power” of God that “our fathers won their liberties of old”, the collect for Independence Day leads us to then ask God “that we all the peoples of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
To that end, this Sunday (July 7) we will sing 4 hymns that explicitly direct our hearts and minds in this vein:
Hymn #287 reminds us that we are to “Give praise and glory unto God, the Father of all blessing”;
#521 enumerates a number of ways that nations can fall away from the Lord and thus we prayerfully sing: “O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry ... take away our pride”;
#513 reminds us that Almighty God is he who is “strong to save” and thus he (not military might or economic security) is the ultimate source of any protection and security that we enjoy; and in
#146 we call upon God to “bless our native land (so that) firm may she ever stand ...”, while also being reminded that our calling (as Christians) is to be a light to the nations: “And not to us alone, but be thy mercies shown from shore to shore. Lord, make the nations see that men should brothers be and form one family ...”