This coming Saturday, the United States will celebrate the 4th of July. To be sure it will be different than in years past. I live in a community where there will not be a large gathering on the beach to watch fireworks light up the night sky, there will be no baseball games for crowds to congregate, and while there will be backyard parties and amateur firework artists; I am wondering if this year the fact that the pandemic has took up residence in every nation might cause us to reflect in a new way.
So often what we have been taught and told about Patriotism can feel like a competition. Some of the language we use to prove our national pride pulls others down to push ourselves up. We have bought in to this notion of Patriotism as a ranking and rating rather than saying that this particular place we call "Home" on the planet earth has left soil in our souls in meaningful ways, but that it doesn't have to be at the expense of another person living in another place.
This year, I am taken by the hymn, "This is my song". Listen to the opening lyrics:
"This is my song, O God of all the nations, A song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine."
What a beautiful and heartfelt prayer! It begins with good theology of God who, even on the 4th of July, loves all people in all places. Second, it builds on that good theology of reminding us that God's prayer for us as people is peace. The Hebrew word is, "Shalom"...wholeness...from the top of your head to your pinkie toe...from your heart to the heart of the person in China to Cuba; Australia to Antarctica...peace for everyone crafted and created in God's image.
The prayer goes on to acknowledge what stirs my soul. The United States is my home, the country where my heart is. The soil from Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Florida is woven into my soul. Those places have left traces of love in my heart. This is the place where my hopes and dreams take root and grow. This is holy ground for me.
Then, I love the turn the hymn writer takes, "But other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."
What if Patriotism was less about a competition and more about expanding and enlarging the interconnection of us all? If if Patriotism, pride here, could allow room for pride there? Not as some sort of winner take all, but a sense that through our history individually and collectively could be greater than the sum of it's parts?
To be sure, such an understanding is not usually what we hear. But then again, this year is not what any of us would call usual anyway. So, maybe in the upset apple cart, where we are all trying to pick up the pieces, perhaps our understanding of Patriotism might be strengthened by looking at how we can affirm both our love for this particular place we call home and that there are other homes that have meaning to God's beloved children too.
May we find more than a trace of God's grace every day this week. Amen.