God Bless America

June 30, 2019

As a child, my family’s tradition was to walk over to Morton West High School and sit in the fields to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.  Whether we  now go to firework displays in person or just watch them on public broadcasts, the views of colors exploding in the air marks a sense of anticipation and wonder as we watch one explode after the other.  We do this in the evening so the light and dark can contrast with the beauty of the fireworks.  On the Flag of the United States of America, the stitching of the stars and stripes set up a border of contrast.  White on a field of blue, red and white next to each other alternating to make up the design.  This contrast invites us to reconnect with the vision of our nation’s founding fathers.  Many colonies, but one nation.  We live in a polarized country.  The contrast between rich and poor, those paying taxes and those not paying enough, those who stand  for only a party line and those willing to cross the aisle for the good of the country.  The contrast and division is easy to see.  This year as we join together as a nation and we pledge to be “One Nation under God,” it is time we celebrate the differences.  We can allow them to be a place of tension and division, or we can choose them to be a place where we can find beauty in the contrast.  We are all Americans.  There is something greater in this acknowledgment than in pointing out what the other person or party is doing wrong.  How great and strong is a country to allow the freedom of speech where disagreements do not end in death.  Issues need to stir us and need to call us forth to make our voice heard.  Yet, we also need to realize when another believes differently, it does not make the other less American.  I am not condoning sin or the lack of a moral compass.  But what I am saying is that calling out each other’s sins, building up hatred and fear, does not help us walk together.

Faith calls us to a deeper reality.  When we say “God bless America,” we must realize we are a nation of imperfection, a people with real issues who must find common ground in order to reach an understanding that can lead to forgiveness.  The love God has is not political, nor can it be politicized.  Faith calls us to love the enemy, pray for those who persecute us and reach out a hand of mercy to the sinner.  The greatness of the Kingdom of God is not found in calling out sin without bringing forgiveness and mercy to the same proclamation of what sin is.  These are trying times.  These are difficult situations. Yet faith is to stir us to walk with others, even with our differences. We are to bring ourselves before God to be healed.  Jesus did not call us to be self-righteous, He called us to be Holy.

As we gather on the 4th, may we find peace within our hearts to celebrate what makes us great and ask God to help us to follow His vision.

God bless America!

Reverend  John J. Ouper