A few weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in our preschool and kindergarten graduations. Because we have different options for attendance at our school, we have multiple graduation services. I’m not sure if you know this, but one of the civic responsibilities taught to our children is the pledge of allegiance. So, to demonstrate their proficiency as well as their pride in our country the children lead us in the pledge. Thus, I participated in saying the pledge of allegiance four times in two days. Here are the words:
I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands.
One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This year, as I said that pledge I had two thoughts.
First, of the rancor that is dividing our country. Some of that division is over the flag, not so much the pledge but rather the National Anthem. I’ve debated with people about this because I strongly believe in the freedom that our flag symbolizes. While I stand and while I recite the pledge, I do so supporting my brothers and sisters who choose to do something else. If saluting this flag of ours is compulsory, then we’ve lost the freedom for which it stands.
My second thought centered on the words “with liberty and justice for all.” These are words of aspiration and I hope that one day, we as a nation will truly reflect the “for all” part of these words.
Meanwhile, as Christian Americans we remember that our ultimate loyalty is to the God who loves us. This love transcends borders. This love recognizes the dignity and worth of every human, even those with whom we might disagree. It is this love that leads me to be a seeker of justice. It is this love that assures me, and us, of God’s grace all those times we are unable to love as we are loved. And it is this love that, when active in our midst, can transform our world.
As we celebrate Independence Day may we do so with thanksgiving for the ideals of the place in which we live. May we also strive to live up to the values that are enshrined in our pledge as well as our constitution. But above all, may we, no matter the circumstances, love and defend our neighbor. For that, my friend is what God commands us to do.
When I was in seminary my preaching professor used to start our classes with song. One song touched me and continues to touch me. It is a slight re-write of America the Beautiful. The re-write, done by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, transforms the song into one of repentance and hope. We’ve used this in worship and will do so July 1.
How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies
How beautiful, our spacious skies, our amber waves of grain
our purple mountains as they rise above the fruitful plain:
America! America! God’s gracious gifts abound,
And more and more we’re grateful for life’s bounty all around
Indigenous and immigrant, our daughters and our sons;
O may we never rest content till all are truly one.
America! America! God grant that we may be
A sisterhood and brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
How beautiful, sincere lament, the wisdom born of tears,
The courage call for to repent the bloodshed through the years.
America! America! God grant that we may be,
A nation blessed with none oppressed, true land of liberty.
How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea,
That dream of peace, non-violence, all people living free.
Americas! Americas! God grant that we may be,
A hemisphere where people here all live in harmony.
“How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies”, Sister Miriam Therese Winter. Hymns, Songs, Rounds and Refrains for Prayer and Praise. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996