The Meaning of Holidays

Date posted: Saturday 02 July 2022

As a kid, I loved going to the Fourth of July fireworks. Our family would sit together on a blanket at Roger Young Park in our hometown and marvel at the display overhead. Some liked the bright-colored flower explosions. I preferred the loud booms, followed by the sizzling descent of color. Our mother worried the whole time that a random ember would land on us. The crush of cars leaving the park afterwards was my singular experience of a traffic jam in my hometown.


The last year we went as a family was 1964. Our father died in May 1965 and going to see fireworks wasn’t something our mother wanted to do that July. A neighbor asked if any of us wanted to go with her family. I sure did and climbed in the back of their station wagon already full of kids. I was twelve and it didn’t take long for me to realize that what I had so enjoyed were not the fireworks themselves but the sense of belonging to my family. That was the last year I went off to Roger Young Park on July 4th.


Holidays have lots of meanings for us, including this national celebration of a new start for us as an independent country in 1776. Whether you fancy pyrotechnics, appreciate time with family or friends, or look at our 246-year history through eyes now open to the legacy of slavery, the cruel injustices done to indigenous peoples, and the elusive sense of the common good in our day, I’ll bet you – like me – long for a community of belonging where you fit on the blanket of inclusion.


Our churches are called to be that kind of place – welcoming the stories and gifts of all kinds of people, with eyes open to true versions of our history. A church is a place where others fit on the blanket, where stories are shared, and new memories are formed. Our reformation heritage, much older than this nation’s founding, continues to teach us the value of addressing prejudices and reforming practices, ever becoming the people we are called to be in Christ.


The church is not the nation. The nation is not the church. Both play important but distinctive roles in the human community. We have many reasons to be grateful for the United States of America, even in a time where much is unsettled and the cries for justice and equity are rightfully loud. So, give thanks today.


Then, whatever you did to mark the Fourth of July, remember next Sunday is coming. Who will you invite to come to worship with you? And how will you engage with the contemporary neighbors who gather there?


In God’s service,
Bishop Patricia Lull