America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

This patriotic anthem is one of my favorites, mostly because it strikes me as an authentic prayer, spoken with enough humility that it feels like a sincere plea, not an arrogant demand.

It is a prayer which we, as disciples of Jesus, would do well to offer in this turbulent time of division. Is it not in times like these that we must humbly turn to God for understanding and wisdom, acknowledging how we have fallen far short of any kind of true “brotherhood”, how full of enmity we are for each other? One of the things most strongly modeled for us by Jesus was the breaking down of hateful, human-erected social barriers which lead to exclusion, discrimination, vilification and violence.

Calling for God’s grace– the humble surrender to God’s unconditional love and holy transformation- includes honest repentance for wrongdoing. Two of the greatest sins of the Old Testament are idolatry and injustice.  Idolatry is putting anyone or anything in the central place of God. These “false gods” include power, wealth, personal ambition, worldly success, military might, ideologies, political leaders, nation, or even church. Injustice is acting in ways which violate the humanity of the other and destroy right relationship. Scripture displays a particular concern when leaders and those in power act with hypocrisy and ignore the well-being of the most vulnerable.

True discipleship takes the demands of our faith seriously and sincerely seeks God’s will for our lives. True patriotism longs for the best for our nation: honesty, integrity, cooperation, respect for the other, true liberty and justice- for all, not merely those who dominate the air waves.

May our gracious God empower us to be faithful disciples and committed patriots, that we might be part of bringing this longing to reality.

With sincere prayers for increased grace,

Pastor Annette