Tomorrow in the Church year is the Second Sunday of Saint Matthew, this is most important, but this weekend we are celebrating my brother’s birthday. That jolly event will not be the focus of the Church Universal, but I will say a prayer for him. I do not love my brother because I am a Christian, but I hope to love him better as a result. Tomorrow is also the birthday of our nation and, as the liturgy directs, we will pray for the United States, her people, and leaders. We do this each week, but perhaps our prayers will be a little more fervent tomorrow. I do not love my nation because I am a Christian, but hope to love her better as a result.
One image the wise give us for the end of time is every nation and people standing before the throne of God. My family will stand as Americans with Americans in the vast throng of other great groups and peoples. Naturally, Americans are not “special” or “chosen” anymore than our family is loved more by God than any other of the vast number of families that have existed.
Yet we are who we are: exceptional to each other.
So it is with this land to those of us who are citizens.
There are days when a family or a nation must do justice and recollect injustice. There are also few special days when one can, even should rejoice with each other. These holidays are days to celebrate what is good. A birthday is as good a day as any to celebrate the people we love. July 4 is a splendid chance to celebrate the land we love, because loving our neighbors is what humans do and loving them well is what God commands us to do! One part of loving is recalling what is good, true, and beautiful. After church, Hope and I will gather together with friends and celebrate the birthday of our nation. There is much to celebrate.
The United States of America has been a haven for Orthodox Christians for over a century. Persecuted to this day in many of our ancient homelands, the United States welcomed the Orthodox and did not force us to be second class citizens.
The United States of America stood against Soviet tyranny in the Cold War and helped liberate millions of people.
Our fellow citizens have created art forms like jazz and fostered brilliant movements like the Harlem Renaissance.
We have one of the oldest functioning constitutional orders in the world. The Bill of Rights and amendments like the 13th, 14th, and 15th are glorious.
Citizens of the United States have, by historic standards, tremendous freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.
We can honor the patriots of 1776 for the good they did. The peerless George Washington fought for liberty, helped establish the Constitution, and then gave up power, unlike a Napoleon. John Adams was willing to lose a bitterly contested election and pass off power to his rival. The citizen-soldiers of the Republic endured great hardship and secured the blessings of liberty and self-governance for a new nation.
No jingoism needed to say:
God bless America.
Lord have mercy on this land. We love her for her merits. We know her sins. Shed Your grace on her.