July 4, 2015 … Some worship resources, without the jingo

I offer some worship resources for people in the United States who are less than happy with the twisting of a celebration about freedom into a championing of an unthinking and uncritical nationalism. I always find that there is a hard-to-achieve balance between jingoism and a kill-joy critique of the spirit of independence, the ideals of democracy and justice. From the beginning of this country there was continual amending … the Constitution not signed but there was the need for the Bill of Rights, and the Bill of Rights so incredibly limited that it always has cried for new amendments. In response to the terrible stance — “my country, right or wrong,” I take deeply to heart the line from Katherine Lee Bates song which shapes these resources — “God mend thine every flaw.”  

Here — from simple joy to the edge of honesty are three calls to worship, two confessional sequences and a responsive reading.

Calls to Worship

Leader: We come with joy – grateful for the spacious skies of summer.
People: We come thankful for purple mountains, blue sea,
roadside lilies, warm sun.
Leader: We come, a people grateful for our country
committed to our faith,
welcoming all people to this great land,
praying for wisdom in all times and in every country.
People: Citizens of every place in the world –
God shed your grace on us!

Leader: This is the day which God has made.
People: Let us rejoice and be glad … as fireworks!
Leader: Any day is holy; all time is given by God and precious.
People: But a summer day is a time of beauty,
and a holiday is a time to remember.
Leader: All around us are parades and picnics.
People: And we bring a trombone-full of prayer
and our open baskets of Communion.

Leader: God of cherry blossoms in Japan …
People: We give you thanks.
Leader: God of the tundra north of Canada’s glaciers …
People: We give you thanks.
Leader: God of Swiss Alps and edelweiss …
People: We give you thanks.
Leader: God of Finnish pine and British meadow,
of Java’s ocean wave and Botswana’s bush …
People: We give you thanks.
Leader: God who has blessed this country –
with Arizona saguaro and sage brush,
with San Francisco fog, Hawaiian islands,
Louisiana delta, Lake Michigan,
with the unique beauties of
Anchorage and Arkansas and Acadia …
People: We give you thanks.
Leader: God of our backyards and church plantings
under spacious New Hampshire (or other) skies
and the roads of everyone’s
“wherever you are” journeys …
People: We give you thanks and worship you with joy.

1) Prayer of Confession

Holy God, when we pollute the spacious skies and the shining sea, or do not share the amber waves of grain – forgive us. When we forget the principles of the past – freedom, tolerance, and welcome to all, or the sacrifices of the past – courage in battle and wisdom in law – forgive us. When we do not care for our country or care for our country more than for you, forgive us. Let your forgiveness become a powerful agent to change us and heal this land that we love. Amen.

Assurance of Grace
We are greatly blessed by God’s forgiveness and allow it to set us on the path of righteousness. Amen.

2) Prayer of Confession

God of all peoples, forgive us when we focus on our lives, the liberties of those who look like us, and the pursuit of property or privilege or power, and do not keep focus on the beatitude-happiness of the meek and hungry, the poor and peacemaker. God of all people, forgive us when we turn golden-calf the particular bill of rights of long ago rather than honoring our ancestors’ urge to ongoing rights-making that protects all who are at risk of any tyranny. Teach us a deep “but-I-say-unto-you” awareness, and the courage to amend all things for the sake of love. Amen

Assurance of Grace

Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” – nothing national, nothing rational — we hear it and we come and we are blessed.

Improv on “America the Beautiful” for July 4 Responsively

Beautiful are spacious skies,
but not just Wyoming and South Dakota,
where open seems to go on forever.
Beautiful are dark Maine forests,
Detroit streets and Carlsbad caverns.

Beautiful are amber grains,
and also the indigo waves of the Pacific,
purple mountains, urban canyons,
and Mississippi delta, too.

Beautiful are fruited places —
Washington apples and Georgia peaches,
Texas grapefruit, Finger Lake grapes,
and the hands who pick that fruit.

Beautiful are the pilgrim feet
of Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island.

More lovely are those feet when they stand
humble before Trail of Tears feet,
the feet of those brought here in chains,
feet blistered crossing the desert,
feet in ankle bracelets of ICE.

Beautiful are heroes of so many wars,
those who gave their lives,
and families who gave their loves,
and beautiful are others who came back
troubled in their hearts
and those who welcome them home.

Beautiful are heroes of many kinds —
who fight fires, guard coasts, ride ambulances,
teach school, check out library books,
foster and adopt children.

Beautiful are emergency-room staff,
social workers, addiction counselors,
and many others,
not just in general,
and not just once a year –

this Navajo poet on the reservation,
this boxing coach in the Bronx,
this camp counselor
on a New Hampshire mountain,

that child yet to be born,
the dawn of many tomorrows’ sky.

A long history of riffs on this poem of Katherine Lee Bates begins with her Wellesley students, including one of my grandmothers, honoring Bates with a version at their graduation, that substituted this way — “Crown thy good with sisterhood, from sea to shining sea.”

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2 Responses to July 4, 2015 … Some worship resources, without the jingo

  1. Mark Monson Alley says:

    What a gift you are to ALL God’s people, Maren. Thanks for this positive, open, healing words. Mark Alley

  2. Maren says:

    You are very welcome, Mark!

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