In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about Independence Day–and the prayers we say for this Major Feast day.
Dear friends in Christ,
Early next week, the United States will celebrate its Independence Day. The day is more than the sales that will probably keep malls and stores busy this weekend. The day is more than a few fireworks. Independence Day is a day to give thanks for the blessings of this nation and to recommit to treasuring and building up the ideals of our country.
Photo by Flickr user Celso FLORES / Creative Commons
As Episcopalians will know, this day is a red letter day in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s a Major Feast day, and churches are meant to have celebrations of the Holy Eucharist on this day. Our prayer book provides a couple of prayers and a set of readings for the occasion. There’s another prayer I quite like, a prayer that we might all say on or near Independence Day. It’s not specific to the United States, so readers from other nations might use it also.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 820)
This prayer reminds us – both as citizens and as people of faith – that we must remember both our rights and blessings and our duties and obligations. In particular, we have a sacred duty to look out for the lost, the least, and the last. As Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Ours is a nation of people yearning to be free. Let us all seek to make a nation where all are free. And when we see that oppression and captivity are preventing freedom, let us open our hearts and the doors of our churches to give sanctuary to those in need of protection and safety.
This Independence Day, let us indeed celebrate our many blessings. But let us also remember that righteousness and justice demand constant vigilance.
However you use your time this summer, may God bless you.