Dear Father in heaven,
I thank Thee this day for the gift of my country, for its beauty, its inner and outer wealth, its strength, its growth, its abundance, its spirit of “can do,” its uniqueness, and for all the good parts of its history.
I thank Thee for Thy providence to us in the water, abundant crops, shelter, work, space, and diverse climate that have all come from Thy hand to this nation.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
– Katharine Lee Bates, 1910
I’m thankful for being here, the eighth generation of my family to live in this country since Hans Zimmerman arrived in Philadelphia from Europe in 1732.
But, Father, have mercy on us! Despite our stated allegiance to Thee on coins, dollar bills, and in many public places, we have gone astray, like the children of Israel, to worship other gods.
Our Constitution proclaims the liberty of each one to choose a personal lifestyle, in the same way that Thou, in Thy boundless love for us, has given us the liberty to follow Thee – or not.
I fear we have often chosen the wrong way, the way of Mammon and of Mars, instead of the way of Thy spirit and peace. Our history bears an enormous burden of guilt toward millions of Native Americans as well as to millions of Africans. And to many other nations.
We have taken for ourselves the natural resources of our land – water, soil, minerals, air, trees, prairies, wildlife of all kinds – with great efficiency and speed, mindless of what we are leaving for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
Our respect for other nations has not been characterized by fairness or decency. We have yet to ask forgiveness for our subversion of many elected governments all over the world, but it’s not too late.
Long ago Thomas Jefferson wrote these words: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
Father in heaven, I also tremble for my country when I reflect on Thy justice. Jefferson may have been thinking of slavery, but I tremble when I think of our wars and the greedy commercial development, at home and abroad, without regard to the needs of the human beings involved.
I tremble for the nation I love as I consider its wars, its banks, its racism, its disdain for the poor everywhere, and a host of social ills that have come from our falling away from Thee and Thy spirit, just as the children of Israel fell away from following Thee long ago.
Father, have mercy on us this Fourth of July. Give us yet another chance to rediscover fairness, humaneness, responsibility, charity, love and forgiveness. If we open our hearts to Thee, miracles will happen. Our country needs such miracles more than ever, for our own sake, for the sake of all humanity, and for Thy kingdom’s sake. We plead for this, this Fourth of July. Amen.