I would like to make a proposal. I would like to propose that we continue to celebrate July 4th as a Day of Independence. I would like propose that we keep the fireworks and back yard barbeques and let the surge of pride at being members of the United States of America fill our hearts. There is something profoundly special about this country. Our ideals are to be lauded. Our aspirations are to be upheld. It is there in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is good to remember and celebrate our independence.
But for the rest of the year, how about if we declare with equal enthusiasm and intention our interdependence? For our independence, our values that we cherish in this country of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rely not on our individualism and set apartness, but on our connection and interdependence. Studies show a strong link between social connectedness and health and well-being. The more connections there are the better health and sense of well-being. This is true not just for individual but for communities as well. Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam has shown that communities that have what he terms high social capital which he defines as a community’s connectivity, involvement and trust will have less crime and violence and healthier and happier citizens. It is really quite clear, being together is good for us.
The challenges we face today is how to widen the circles of togetherness so that we are not hunkered down in our own space of well-being and become cut off from the needs and realities of others beyond our circles. I can remember clearly when I first realized that there was much suffering in the world. I was quite young and I remember feeling a great sadness well up in me unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I remember quite distinctly realizing that from then on I would never be completely free to pursue my own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness now that I knew that so many others were not free to do so. I knew even then the truth of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words that we are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” I knew this at a very young age and I bet that our children know it too. I bet they feel that same sadness as I am sure you do as well.
I think once we realize this interconnectedness and allow ourselves to feel the sadness that there is great suffering among our brothers and sisters and this planet of ours, then the healing can begin. For every time we touch another’s life with love, there is healing. I believe touching lives with the healing power of love is really what being church is all about.
Did you know that in the Middle Ages, churches and religious communities were actually the hospitals? It was the monks and nuns who provided care for the sick. They were places of hospital-ity and there is even and old French term for hospital, hôtel-Dieu, or “hostel of God.”
Makes perfect sense to me because so much of Jesus ministry was about healing. Over and over again throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus is touching people with love and they are being healed. So as the body of Christ in the world, as the church, ought we not to be doing the same?
I wonder what reaction we would get if we flew a Red Cross flag off the top of our steeple or put one of those blue highway signs with the white “H” in it that signifies a hospital is coming up on the front lawn of the church. I wonder if those around us would see the church in a new way. I wonder if we would as well?
I do hope you all enjoyed your Independence Day celebrations and I celebrate the good work that we are called to do, to touch the world with love as we nurture and fortify our interdependence.