Rev. Derrick Elliott
Last July 4, many houses of worship joined the United States in celebrating Independence Day, marking the day this country declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776. This day is characterized by the explosion of fireworks, parades, BBQs, concerts, and family reunions—a day where all citizens gathered together to sing and acknowledge the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
I have struggled with this holiday as I have gotten older and, hopefully, wiser. We should love and honor our nation; however, we should always be faithful to God. In my personal opinion, we should not distort Christianity by glorifying the nation over the church. The Church should be seen as a tool of God for the healing and hope of the world and not a tool that sows division. In the book Our Star-Spangled Faith, Martin E. Marty opened it with this statement: “Christians have two choices whenever they look at the state or nation.” Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) senses and sees the nation as a people. He noted that when leaders do this outlook, it is God’s mechanism for good through love’s lens. The second choice dealt with the authoritative power in which we have power overreaching, distorting, and oppressing the people. My faith teaches me to be compassionate and full of grace, love, and mercy. We can find strength in our diversity and seek the courage to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” We, as a nation, have been divided into camps of us versus them rather than We the People.
In the Book of Acts, we hear about the first Pentecost, where the Spirit of God blows over the people and springs the creation of the church. When the Spirit wind blew through that first diverse group of disciples, they had no idea where it was going to take them, but they didn’t fight it. My friends, the Spirit still refreshes us, breathing new life into our community and beautiful nation. Like the early church community, God’s breath and Spirit also moves for you. Using our resources for the community is one way we are confirming the significance of Pentecost and being a part of the mission of Christ. We are agents of forgiveness and reconciliation, love and peace, healing, and hope in a world made dark by fear, hatred, and brokenness. God desires that when evil things or craziness happens, people should not turn away, but turn to their faith. In our faith, we can find peace and hope. In our faith, we can see God in what God has created; we can have the vision of God in each other—knowing the peace and hope that passes all human understanding.