July 4th, 1776, our Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in which we announced our separation from Mother England and freedom from monarchy. We have had two hundred and forty-five years of not having a king or a queen to rule over us, though some have tried to take the mantle.
There is a lot of work to be done in our democratic experiment to live into the values declared at the founding of the United States, but there is an interesting proposition that is still at the heart of the enterprise that I think is worth remembering: we have no king of this world, but we do have a Monarch.
We can negotiate the best ways of living together in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if we remember that there is One who will call us to account for the ways we live, hopefully with the grace that is central to our understanding of that One. We can have a democracy because we have a higher power than all others that we will one day stand before.
I have come to understand that the experiment that our founders were aiming for was beyond their sights. They had yet to fully understand or live into that vision of equality and responsibility that make this possible, but they did begin it and set us in the right direction. We can celebrate that together even as take our turn under the weight of making a more just and equitable nation.
Seeing it that way also allows us to celebrate those who set us in that good direction and those who pushed us forward when complacency, pride, or fear had caused us to drift and turn back from the noblest parts of our calling. I am thinking of those who championed equal rights and access for all Americans to life, liberty, and happiness when the systems and habits of our common life denied them.
In years of deep and painful reminders of how far we have to go, it is good to remember and celebrate this nation we have inherited and created together and how far we have come. I am grateful that our nation has a rich and deep complexity and that we still can do our part to lift up our neighbors’ rights even more than our own.
In the inheritance our Episcopal tradition, going back centuries to before we were a nation, we have been congregations assigned to a parish, that is a people of the church who with their clergy are given care of an area of land and all who live in it. This has driven the outreach and local nature of our global faith. We are called to serve our neighbors in Paradise Valley, Phoenix, and Scottsdale, as central to our identity as a parish.
As the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America (PECUSA) we are given cure of this nation in particular, to hold up in prayer and to serve as our brothers and sisters around the world and throughout history have held up their nations, empires, colonies, and cities. But we have a special gift in being alive today in this nation. We have the gift of responsibility, the responsibility to be involved in the preservation of our nation and in the creation of its future.
As Christians in particular that creative work has to be work worthy of our Savior, even as we are imperfect in our time as those who came before us in theirs. We cannot leave out those who our poor, sick, lame, orphaned, or widowed. We cannot neglect the stranger in our midst or the beggar at our stoop. We may not all agree on how we get there, but we are engaged to get their together, without turning to the cheap insincerities of politics or the violent hatred of sectarians. We have been given care of our United States.
Because we first belong to our crucified King and Lord, we must be more than Americans; we must be holy, loving, and seeking something even greater than life, liberty, and happiness for ourselves. Thank God, we get to have care of this nation, even at this time of turmoil, where we are free to stand together in the work, kneel together in prayer, and sit together at that great table of the Lord, where one day all people of goodwill will be fed.
Until then, we keep up our practice, gathering every week to remember, rejoice, recommit, and rehearse until Christ comes again.
the Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona