We have just celebrated the Fourth of July, and I never think of the Fourth without remembering a wonderful trip I made with my family in 1976, the year of the bicentennial: We traveled and saw as much of history related to our country as we could that summer, and our stops included Williamsburg, Jamestown, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Plymouth and Martha’s Vineyard.
I was a junior in college at UGA, but I was as wide-eyed and captivated as a child. The whole country was abuzz with the historic celebration even though it was still reeling from Vietnam, Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s resignation. This country’s amazing resiliency was so apparent, and the nation was united in a way I suppose that it was not again until post-9/11.
In the midst of all the furor over freedoms being under fire, I believe it is essential for us to remember that often we have ignored that with great freedom comes great responsibility; to whom much is given, much is required.
The late 1950s was the time of the Cold War, which had followed two world wars and was characterized by the fear of a possible war that would end all wars: nuclear war as threatened by the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. That is the era of William Watkins Reid’s hymn O God of Every Nation. Reid, a United Methodist clergyman, wanted to address not our country’s independence but the essential interdependence required if all nations are to live in peace and harmony:
O God of every nation,
of every race and land,
Redeem your whole creation
with your almighty hand;
Where hate and fear divide us,
And bitter threats are hurled,
In love and mercy guide us,
and heal our strife-torn world.
Perhaps we are much more eager to brandish our independence than to acknowledge that we do need one another. Freedom should not engender in us self-sufficiency and self-centeredness. How interesting that our freedoms would in fact make us more vulnerable to our fear that someone is always trying to threaten us and take our freedoms away. It is from such pride and fear that Reid pleads every nation be delivered. His vision in the fourth stanza is of a SHALOM (wholeness), “when war shall cease, when hatred and division give way to love and peace, till dawns the morning glorious when truth and justice reign, and Christ shall rule victorious o’er all the world’s domain!”
As we celebrate Independence Day, let us praise God for the peace Christ is bringing among the nations and that, in HIM, we are interdependent!
The Rev. Bernard Mason is pastor of Mann-Mize Memorial United Methodist Church and chaplain for Heartland Hospice.