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aflagSometimes it’s difficult to get in touch with all the extraordinary blessings we experience as citizens of a free country. If I stay in the peaceful village where I live and don’t access the outside world through the “marvels” of technology it’s possible to enjoy a picnic or a good book while sitting outside in the sunshine. These days, however, in a political climate that is totally untenable, where hate is blatant and civility is often missing from human discourse, one wonders where it will all end.

When I was young, among the many things I learned about morality was the important axiom that freedom is not the same as license; we are not allowed to do everything we want just because we can. We must consider the common good as well as our desires. As the technological age has put us in touch with the world such that we now know what is happening everywhere – sometimes at the exact moment it occurs, our responsibility to the freedom we have inherited has deepened. At the same time, in a country as largely populated and diverse and a society as complex as what we still call the United States of America, we find that freedom can be what some have called a “hard grace.”

There is a tendency in me this morning to lament the “state of the nation” but I know that would be unfair to all those Americans around our country and the world who are responding to crises today, to all those health workers and researchers who are working to overcome disease, to teachers and farmers and mothers and fathers who are teaching their children what a privilege it is to live in this country and how we must work to assure justice for all. It would be unfair as well to people who are gathering in places of worship today – in churches, synagogues, mosques and the wide open spaces where the Holy is found – to give thanks for what we have been given and to ask for guidance as we go forward. I add my prayer to theirs as the music and the words rise in me, giving me confirmation of my gratitude for this country and the life that is possible here.

God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam, God bless America, my home, sweet home. God, bless America, my home, sweet home.