As the world grows more dangerous, church-going becomes more welcome, a true respite and refuge. Worshiping as one chooses is one of the great gifts given to Americans on the wondrous Fourth of July. And each year, as that holiday approaches, I give thanks for the freedom of worship.
In a time of wars and rumors of wars, we enter the doors of our church and are pulled out of ourselves toward something, someone greater. For an hour each week we soar with the birds, dance with the angels, and commune with our God.
Communion with God is no small thing – thought to be revolutionary once and in some cultures still revolutionary. But in Christianity we do just that. The creature communes with the Creator. The small communes with the great. This is no small thing.
This morning in our parish Sunday School, we started our Summer Sundays children’s program, around the theme “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” We began with circle time and invited Our Heavenly Father to join us. We folded our hands and prayed, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
Because we have faithfully invited Our Heavenly Father into our classroom, into our circle, and into our hearts, week after week, year after year, the children knew these holy words. They said them with great gusto, as though sending them up and out, flying through the sky. There was no hesitation. No wondering what the next phrase is. They had it all down. They have been faithful.
We had made a place for God, and we continued with snack, story, song, and craft. All the while God was with us, and his Holy Spirit danced among us, filling us with his joy.
We sang about all creatures great and small, the purple headed mountain, and the river running by. We sang about the cold wind in the winter and the pleasant summer sun, the ripe fruits in the garden – He made them every one! For each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings: God made their glowing colors and He made their tiny wings. As we sang we knew that God was there, prompting us. For he gave us eyes to see them, these bright and beautiful things. He even gave us lips that we might tell how great is God almighty who has made all things well.
As the children raised their arms for “creatures great” and tumbled on the rug for “creatures small,” I considered the preciousness and precariousness of the time. I gave thanks for our country that still allows us to sing to God with our children. I gave thanks for America, her laws, her liberty, and her common celebrations, her Independence Day.
For the Fourth of July is our day of common celebration. It is America’s birthday, and we are one family gathered around the cake aflame with lights. As a nation we make wishes on this day, wishes for peace and freedom, for liberty and law. We form a circle around the cake with its flaming candles, holding hands of every color and class, as we honor one another in word and deed. For we are Americans. And each one of us is bright and beautiful, for the Lord God made us all.
An usher peeked into our classroom. He motioned that it was time for our communion blessings. We formed a line, hands folded, and stepped carefully up the central aisle of the nave of the church toward the altar. As I received Christ in the bread and wine, I gave thanks for this refuge, this church, this respite from the turmoil of the world. I gave thanks for our freedom to commune with God our Creator.
One hour a week we retreat into the warm refuge of the church, this ark of Christ. We sing and pray, and the children lead us in the “Our Father.” A simple sixty minutes of peace. A simple sixty minutes of freedom. A simple sixty minutes of joy, we creatures great and small, communing with Our Lord God who made us all.