Ask what you can do

The 4th of July weekend is here! Fireworks, picnics, games and friends…and, of course, celebrating the freedoms that have come about with the birth of this nation. With all its problems and mistakes, I am thankful that I live in this beautiful place.

When July 4th falls on a weekend, there are expectations that our worship services give a nod to the celebrating. Some churches get more involved then others. Lutheran Christians are a little subdued, mindful of the blindness of the church-state collaboration that occurred in Nazi Germany. But we certainly give thanks to God for the freedom to worship in the way we choose, and pray for our country as well as the whole world.

This July 4th feels different. The frustration and devastation of the oil spill in the Gulf waters continues. One section of God’s creation, for which we as a nation are the caretakers, is being harmed. The photos are heart rending. The toll on wildlife and people’s livelihood is immense. I am so thankful for the freedoms we have in this country, but with those freedoms comes grave responsibility.

We all remember the words of President John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. When we gather to worship on Sunday, I sense a responsibility to offer more than thanks for our freedom and wishes for people to have a happy holiday. As people of faith and children of a merciful Creator, what can we do for our country in this time of crisis? What responsibility can we shoulder in honor of this nation’s birth? Is there more to be done than watching fireworks?

On Sunday we will have a series of scripture readings and prayers related to the oil spill crisis: prayers for scientists and engineers, prayers for forgiveness for the greed that makes us incautious, prayers for people out of work as a result of the spill, prayers for recovery to land, sea and wildlife, prayers for wisdom for leaders. We will receive a letter to ELCA congregations from presiding Bishop Mark Hanson.

In prayer God begins to change us, perhaps giving us ideas about how we can help. In prayer we are connected through Christ’s presence to the neighbors in other parts of the world, including the Gulf coast. Through prayer in Christ’s name, God has promised to work. And so if there is one thing we can begin to do for this nation on July 4th, it is to pray together.

Hope to see you on Sunday. Bring your ideas about what we can do to help.