Have we confused the God of all nations with the unofficial god of USA public policy - the god of manifest destiny, the Calvinist god, who guided our pilgrim parents across the ocean, inspired them to settle the land from sea to shining sea, giving them the right to wipe out the indigenous people who were living here when we arrived? Do we believe, like the children of Israel, that we are exceptional among nations? Our god gave us this land just as God gave Canaan to the Hebrews. “While such a view has been motivational in terms of national expansion, leading to the formation of a great country we have today, it has not always been inspirational or ethical - it has led to slavery, genocide, and chauvinism, and today to white nationalism and the terrorist acts of January 6. Many national political and religious leaders still celebrate this “almighty” God, who favors the USA among peoples, giving us the right to do what we please with “our” resources, even when they fall outside our nation’s borders!”
This week is not only our July 4th celebration, on the first of July, Canada celebrated Canada Day. Two celebrations of national life in North America. We share a heritage of British imperialism and today we struggle with that means. In the news recently, we have learned that hundreds of skeletal remains were found in two different “Indian” schools in western Canada. Both countries must face the legacy of colonialism and racism in our histories and political lives.
Do we mistake our homeland for God’s city?
Our gospel reading from Mark this week relates the story of what happens to Jesus when he returns to his home town and begins to teach in the synagogue. His fellow Nazarenes are critical of his teaching as they seem to believe that the son of a carpenter couldn’t possibly have anything to say to them. In Luke, the story goes further, as the people of Nazareth try to kill him by running him off a cliff.
Matthew and Luke both record Jesus as saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20).
We will hear the words of Langston Hughes on Sunday, words from his poem, “Let America Be America Again”.
Our Independence Day celebrations take on a new feel this year. After the death of George Floyd, I’m not sure we will ever be able to celebrate this day without recognizing the complex issues that surround a nation that proclaimed “all men are created equal” and speaks of “liberty and justice for all.” Those statements have simply never been true.
How, then, do we approach this holiday? I hold on to the idea of America as expressed by Emma Lazarus, “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-most to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” At the same time I recognize that this is a dream, a goal toward which we must never stop working.
I remember childhood days of summer, running through freshly mowed grass, smelling the barbecue of the many grills being lit in my neighborhood. Visits to the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful beaches of the Jersey shore. The vistas of the forests in Maine, the breathtaking view of my first visit to the Rockies. Trees and streets glittering and sparkling after a fresh snow fall.
While I love my homeland, I do not confuse it with God’s kingdom. The homeland of God’s people is not a theocratic earthly nation. We may feel rooted to a place and still recognize that the place is not our home. I can say that after many moves and a two year stint living abroad. Upon my return home after those two years, tears fell down my cheeks as we flew over the Statue of Liberty. But I learned, while living away from my roots, that my true home is with God. Therefore, wherever I am, I know that I am at home. Like the son of man, it doesn’t matter where I lay my head, I know that God is with me.
Let’s celebrate the ideals of our Independence Day and then on July 5th, pick up our banners and our work as Christians, longing for the day when everyone who lives in this land, feels at home.
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While we are unable to pass the offering plate during worship, we hope you will continue to support the mission and ministry of the church if and as you are able—online, through your bank's bill payment system, or with a check mailed to the church (500 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906). All offerings are gratefully received. Thank you!
We invite you to stay online after worship for our virtual coffee hour.
Transcripts and audio recordings of recent sermons can be found on our website here. Audio recordings of older sermons are available here.
Sunday School Re-opening Survey
Dear PPC parents—
As the Session is planning to re-open PPC for in-person worship in September, the Nurture Committee is also making plans to re-open Sunday School. We would love your input about these reopening plans, especially for those of you with kids under 12 years old. Thanks so much for taking 5 minutes to fill out this short survey to let us know how we can best prepare for your family to participate in worship and Sunday School at PPC this fall.
If possible, please complete this survey by Monday, July 12. If you have any questions or anything you’d like to discuss, please contact Kathy Cooper at email@example.com or anyone on the Nurture Committee.
The next PPC book group gathering will be on Saturday, July 31, from 10:00-11:30am to discuss Louise Erdrich’s recent novel, The Night Watchman. Erdrich was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for this book!