Today in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day, the “Fourth of July.” This day that marks the midpoint of summer is often spent on vacation, enjoying fireworks, participating in picnics, parades and concerts, gathering with friends, neighbors and family members for cook-outs and of course, swimming. We know the history of this national, patriotic holiday is one that brought great confidence among the colonies in separating themselves from British rule to enter a new phase of autonomy and independence from an undesirable future under the British empire.
As we look at the following readings today, we notice some similarities and differences between the new society that the young United States was hoping for, what we, as Americans view as shortcomings in these current days in living out this prosperous society and what God is calling us to as we seek to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Isaiah 32, we are reminded of the prophet’s words of that time when the “work of justice will be peace” and “the effect of justice, calm and security forever” and people will live in “secure dwelling and quiet resting places” when the Spirit is “poured out on us.” The ideal of this attractive life and society may not be so far off from what the colonists and their representatives hoped for, too.
In a second reading from Colossians, we hear some specific directives from St. Paul about how to treat ones another, using “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another” and putting “on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
In the Gospel of John, chapter 14, we hear more direct words from Jesus about how to live and how to bond with each other. We have the Holy Spirit with us, guiding us and reminding us of everyone that Christ has instructed.
As I reflect on these readings for bringing the Kingdom of God here on earth and on the hopes of the founding members of our nation, I wonder how our American society in 2019 would be viewed. Would Jesus be disappointed with our immigration policies, our tendency to quickly judge and exclude the marginalized and those whom we define as different than ourselves? Would our Founding Fathers of the United States be surprised that not everyone lives a life of security, prosperity and enjoyment under our current elected officials? I admit that these days, these years, I am often frustrated, shocked, disappointment, outraged and even numb at times, to the awful destruction in and degradation of our country and our world in personal and political arenas. Certainly, there is hope, but there is also a lot of important work to be done. It’s a good thing we have these ideals and directives to help guide us.
As I pray with these beautiful readings of hope and guidance, I find God reminding me that the ideal of living the Kingdom of God here on earth, with all of it’s joy, forgiveness and thriving, it is not completely out of reach or worth abandoning. But, there’s more hard work in front of us. And, so I invite us to take a small step towards that reality today (amidst the summer celebrations), to help our nation, and all people around the world come a bit closer to the reality that God hopes for us.