Citizens of the Kingdom of God
This coming Sunday, Independence Day, is more than a national holiday. It’s also a major feast on our Episcopal Church liturgical calendar. Meaning it’s a church holiday, too—a holy day—and therefore a reminder that in our mission and ministry as the church we pray and work for what’s best in our life as a nation.
Our mission and ministry as the church also helps us keep in perspective our life as a nation. The Sacrament of Baptism affirms that regardless of our citizenship status or social standing, we hold permanent citizenship as beloved in God’s country, the “Kingdom of God,” as the Bible calls it. And so our pledge of allegiance to that citizenship remains our standard for every other allegiance we pledge as well as our measure for what is best—for all—in our life as a nation.
Accordingly, at the 10 am Eucharist this Sunday, we’ll close by singing “America the Beautiful” (hymn 719 in Hymnal 1982), one of our beloved but also balanced national songs. Katharine Lee Bates, longtime Wellesley College professor of English and American literature specialist, visited Colorado in the summer of 1893 and drafted the words in her hotel room after a trip up 14,000-foot-high Pikes Peak by prairie wagon and mule. Wearied as she was, she marveled, “All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.” Yet even in her hastily scribbled first draft of the last verse, she projected almost verbatim the greater vision we’ll sing this Sunday—of God’s eternal country where all are beloved citizens:
O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
— The Rev. Canon Tom Kryder-Reid.