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Act. Pray. Love.

What a time in which to celebrate Independence Day! How do we commemorate in the midst of pandemic, illness and death across our country? How do we mark independence from a foreign country seen as an oppressor in the 18th century when our streets are filled with those who continue to be systemically subjugated in the 21st century? Flags will wave amid conflicting emotions of sorrow, hope, loss, longing, anger, confusion – and more. What behaviors and prayers can we commit ourselves to in the middle of all of this?

Although we need to own the reality that our church has too often been on the side of the dominant rather than the vulnerable, we can still look to the liturgy for clues as we seek to transform our hearts and our society and mirror far better the reign of God. The lectionary suggests for Independence Day readings that focus on “civil needs,” on the good of “the nation” and “peace and justice.” All of these are for the common good, the health, well-being, safety, and dignity of every person living in the United States. Perhaps in our era prayers for and a celebration of Interdependence Day might be a more inclusive challenge, an opportunity to share in the Trinitarian love we so recently marked at a Sunday liturgy.

Asking for God’s blessing is virtuous and valuable. Working to cooperate with the Spirit who calls us to just relationships is valiant. As a white woman who shares in privilege, I need to choose behaviors that reflect my prayer. A variety of sources such as websites, articles, podcasts and TED talks offer all of us opportunities to work for the common good. How do I learn to thank someone who challenges my narrow vision? How do I choose to encounter those of a different race from me in a way that respects the life experience of both and calls us into communion? When do I set aside time to listen to and read and watch resources that inspire me, cause me to acknowledge my complicity in racism, and teach me new ways of being? Which respected scientists do I turn to for information about how to act in the COVID-19 era? Yes, these are all connected because every choice each of us makes either allows God to shine through us or blocks the vision of what is good and holy.

What a time to celebrate Independence Day! How do we choose life, life for all in the God who loves each distinctly and all in community? To paraphrase a recent novel and movie: Act. Pray. Love.

Sister Laura Bregar