Next Wednesday will be a national holiday. People will take off from work and gather with their families to
cookout, maybe head over to the lake, and later set off fireworks at night. They might overeat and some will certainly
over drink. This is what Americans tend to do on the 4th of July. Not all that much time is given to reflect on why this
day is so important and celebrated. We are so caught up in the moment of waving our red, white, and blue flags, that we
forget the important ideals that were carefully crafted into words to give us such a unique country in which we live.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We live in a country that puts forth the bold guarantee that all of us are created equal. Regardless of where we
were born. Regardless of our gender or the color of our skin. Regardless of whom we choose to love. All of us have been
created equal. Or as we Episcopalians choose to live this ideal out:

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will with God’s help.”

It seems to me that this might be the real test. How does my nationality and my faith come together and have a direct impact on others? When we squabble over laws that are designed to limit another person’s Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, we have truly missed the point of it all. It saddens me to see how much effort has been put into restricting a person’s ability to cast a ballot, to love whoever they choose, to make medical decisions concerning their own bodies, read a book of their own choosing, or worship as their faith leads them. Real independence requires discipline and tolerance. It demands our understanding of another person’s point of view.
Is there a way to bring together the promises of our Baptismal Covenant and the founding principles of our
nation’s independence? Perhaps there is.

“You will Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, you will love you neighbor as yourself.”

Have a happy and safe 4th of July, Mark+