Sunday, July 2, 2017
by Rachel Lyons
I grew up loving the Fourth of July from my driveway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We lived near the fairgrounds where they would shoot off all kinds of fireworks in a bright and colorful display of deafening BOOMs and POPs. I would sit in front of the garage with my siblings and look over our neighbors’ houses at the sky above us, filled with lights and dazzling sparkles. After the wonder of the fireworks, the last clouds of smoke would float away, the kids would get ready for bed, and I’d easily fall asleep with the magic of this summer holiday on my mind.
Now, things are different. By things, I mean my own mind, my heart, my dreams. I am in relationship with different places, different people, different images of God. Chicago’s booms and pops are sometimes fireworks, sometimes gunshots. I meet refugees and immigrants who have had horrible experiences fleeing conflict and war, so a celebration with explosions is pretty problematic. And my childhood image of God as a dominant (usually fairly scary) ruler over all has also evolved. I see God in the amazing interconnected ecosystems of creation, in dedicated friendships and people who keep showing up for me, and in persistent prophets and activists who spend their energy working for justice day in and day out. God seems to show up less in concentrated power, more in infinite access for all. Less in domination, more in liberation. Less in rules, more in healing and giving to each according to their need.
And yet here we are, in a country and a time when we are told to glorify our nation above other nations. To celebrate a history that usually focuses on white people and excludes the narratives of People of Color, people in slavery, poverty, mass incarceration, and struggle. To honor certain lives over others. And I am a part of this history, this culture, this process. I didn’t realize all of this sitting on my driveway in Sioux Falls. But now I know a little more of the full story. And I can’t un-know it. Sometimes I think I want to forget, but God knows better. God continues to reveal the truth unapologetically because God knows we can handle it. God looks to us with the creative joy and hope of possibility, the dream of what we can do if we let ourselves accept the continually revealed truths of our nation, our history, and our own selves. And I am looking around, trying to figure out how we glorify God, celebrate Jesus, and honor the Holy Spirit at this moment. I listen to Psalm 145 which we hear on July 9, and it reminds me that, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” What does the Fourth of July mean to a Christian people? To people who follow a God of mercy, gratitude, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, and resurrection? Let these questions guide your heart this week. Ask each other for an answer at a BBQ, or see how your children respond. Let us be united not just as states but as people truly striving for the common good in our communities.
Rachel Lyons is the Director of Social Action at Old St. Patrick’s Church.