The Happy Birthday America celebrations are ramping up. Some of us are not feeling all that festive yet. (Which surprises me—always the optimist, loving my country. So many happy memories of watermelon and home-made ice cream. Family and fireworks.) In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision maybe we can take a cue from the apostle Paul. Maybe it’s a time to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Lord, we thank you for your good gifts of life and liberty. Thank you for men and women who risked so much to give us the gift of America…
…those who pursued an “errand into the wilderness” to worship in freedom
…the Pilgrims on the Mayflower who “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country” planted their Plymouth Rock colony.
…the thousands of Puritans who sought to build “a city on the hill”… [where they would] “love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments…that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it”
…the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence against a world power when they had no great army to fight it and no navy to break the blockade they knew would come
…the 17 who fought in the Revolutionary War and the five who were captured and held as prisoners of war
…the 4 who saw their sons or wives killed or captured
…the 11 whose homes and lands were ransacked, occupied or burned
…the many who lost their businesses or gave their personal fortunes to fund the war
Thank you for the many wives who were, in effect, single moms during the revolution, running their family farms and businesses while their husbands were away for months or years at a time, working to fight or fund the war. Thank you for women of courage and kindness, like Martha Washington, who, although she lost every one of her children, spent each winter at her husband’s encampment, mending uniforms, darning socks and offering the gift of her presence to the troops, especially the sick and wounded. For Abigail Adams who, when disease ravaged her area, opened her home as a hospital and gave all her silver and pewter to be melted into bullets.
Thank you that these families loved America more than their own lives or families. We have been given such a remarkable gift.
God, I pour out my heart to you. I lament with the Psalmist that “people do not keep your law. Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules.” I know this is nothing new. I know that within years of founding Massachusetts the Puritan leadership gathered and lamented the same thing.
I know that I am one of these, Lord. I am a fellow traveler. I struggle to love well. I do not live full of grace and truth like Jesus did.
Father, I think of President Jefferson’s words: You “who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time…And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . .”
Lord forgive us when we forget or deny the only firm basis of our national liberties—the belief that they are your good gifts.
Help us not to live the story of your Word in Romans 1:
Let us honor you as God and give thanks to you so we will not become futile in our thinking.
Help us not to exchange the truth about you for a lie.
Help us not worship and serve the desires of our fellow-creatures, rather than you who created us.
Please do not give us over to things you warn us about-dishonorable passions, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.
Gossip, slander, hatred of you, insolence, pride, disobedience to parents.
Father when we practice these things, convict us. Thank you that Jesus died to offer us a life of forgiveness and blessing.
When others practice these things or give approval to those who practice them, help us respond without haughtiness or contempt.
Rather, help us to speak truth in love, as you did when you responded to the woman caught in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”
Please, Father, strengthen us to love well, show mercy and walk humbly with you.
God, please be merciful, even as we already experience your judgment upon America.
As our enemies grow stronger and our families grow weaker.
As we “eat and drink and rise up to play,” as we seek our own comfort when so many need our time and our touch.
Lord we rejoice that you do all things well. Even judgment, to draw us back to you.
We rejoice that our country is in your hands and our times are in your hands.
We rejoice that this world is perfectly safe for us as long as we are in your kingdom.
Father, thank you for hearing our prayer and making us your partners in reconciliation.
Thank you for loving us and giving us liberty.
And for shedding your grace on America.
In the name of the One who died to set us truly free,