This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial. The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.
As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart. Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own. Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country. What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America. But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision. We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.
It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding. And imagine what it was like. Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world. Imagine the courage they had. Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these. They are sacred because they reflected divine reality. God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson. And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.
When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words. I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 38 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing, and inspiring leadership. They are faith-based thoughts. I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world, a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society. As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have? What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?
I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS. AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
I, as a Christian among other God-fearing women and men. address You and love You as my Father. You are my Father. But this means that You are not just my Father, but the Father of all those you have created. You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will; Therefore, we are all equal in your sight. We are all persons. You conceivedand created each human being with a unique identity, a body and soul, in Your mind and heart from the very beginning and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.
I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, Father. And that makes us but sisters and brothers. Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart. Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me – a little place to call home, simple food on my table, a decent education and decent health care.
Help me, Father, to recognize and support the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own. Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs, but to realize that we are all one family. Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence; brother still kills brother. Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.
This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, heavenly Father ~
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus ~
all honor and praise and thanksgiving, now and forever.
This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live. It has ever been such since my lazy summer of ’79 in Washington and always will be. I do not expect you to use my words as you pray. I just invite you to make your own prayer. Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals. We need God in our world today. But we rely on ourselves and not on God. Capitalism, by definition, creates that illusion. I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2017. We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land. And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal, we will lose what we have and are. Great civilizations have collapsed because of their complacency before us.
Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if wepray and bind together!
Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July. Ask God for guidance. Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted. We need God to bring us through these critical times.
And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with historical images to inspire your reflection. Click here.
Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.