O Eternal Author of all that is, on this Independence Day weekend we celebrate all the freedoms we have, including the freedom to gather here on line and in person to worship you. We confess we often take our freedoms and privileges for granted. Help us tap into the well of gratitude we owe to you first and foremost, even as we celebrate the visionaries who dared to declare their independence from Great Britain almost 250 years ago. Our journey as a nation toward a more perfect union has been a very bumpy ride; so even as we shoot off fireworks and eat too much this weekend to celebrate our freedom, we also lift up our prayers for the broken and divided nation we occupy in this particular chapter of American history.
We have come a long way toward fulfilling the dreams of Jefferson, Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, and Dr. King, but we have miles and miles to go before we reach the high ideals of liberty and justice for all. As we celebrate our own freedoms this year we also pray for those who are not free from food and financial insecurities. Remind us to pray for those without adequate health care or opportunities for education and training for meaningful jobs. We pray for those in our nation and others who are not free from the fear of violence in their cities, and for women and girls who still yearn for the wages, rights, and opportunities taken for granted by their male counterparts.
We offer special prayers for those who are not free from racial profiling and stereotypes that threaten their very lives. For homeless immigrants around the world and people living on the streets of our own city, hear our prayers, O God. We weep for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine enduring naked aggression and suffering at the hands of a misguided bully. But we also pray for all those who feel the need to oppress and are insatiably hungry for power over others.
Jesus, our Lord and Savior, said he came to set the captives free, and so we pray for true freedom:
Freedom from extreme temperatures, droughts, and storms caused by climate change.
Freedom to be better stewards of your creation.
Freedom from systemic racism and discrimination against our LGBTQ siblings.
Freedom to offer hospitality to all of your children.
Freedom from addiction in all its forms.
Freedom to offer support to anyone struggling with disease and chronic pain.
Freedom from depression and. hopelessness.
Freedom to be open and vulnerable enough to share our own struggles with those who need a friend they can trust to hear their story without fear of judgment.
Gracious and loving God, you already know the cares and concerns of our hearts, yearning to be free. Send your Holy Spirit to bring blessed assurance to each one worshiping with us.
Remind us again that your reign of justice and peace does not come with swords loud clashing nor roll of stirring drums, but with deeds of love and mercy. We know that true freedom will not come until we dwell again in heavenly peace with you. But until that day comes empower us with the courage to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you as we offer the freedom of your grace to all we meet. We ask these things, as well as our unspoken prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
[Pastoral Prayer for July 3, 2022, Northwest UMC, Columbus, OH]