Saturday, June 12, 2010

Prayers for America...

If you read my previous post, you would know that yesterday I offered the prayer of invocation at the Rye Country Day School graduation. Following the prayer of invocation, we immediately began to sing America the Beautiful. This is a ritual at the school, one that I had enacted and reenacted in my years as a student, teacher, and participant in the graduation exercises. I would sing the song with gusto anytime I heard the Ray Charles version. I knew the song well, so I thought. But yesterday, as I stood and sang, the chorus that follows the second verse commanded my attention:

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

God mend thine every flaw...
My Lord! Here we were, flawed people, who knowingly and unknowingly contribute to America's flaws of racism, sexism, poverty, inadequate healthcare, inadequate education, violence, etc. etc. singing this powerful prayer. If we were honest, many of us in the room would not want God to mend our every flaw as that would mean moving us out of the comfortable and lofty places that we have created for ourselves. God mending our every flaw would mean a change in speech, habits, and behaviors that keep some on the fringes of society while we enjoy the good life.

Confirm thy soul in self-control...
America? Soul? Self-Controlled? All one has to do is open his or her eyes and see that self-control is not part of the American consciousness or vocabulary. We overindulge. We live in excess. We act out in irresponsible ways when we don't get our way. We hoard. We store up our treasures...and other people's treasures. We use and abuse ourselves and each other. We use and abuse the earth and her resources. Again, all in the name of a comfortable life for ourselves. And I, too, am guilty. I drive a gas guzzling SUV as 200,000 gallons of oil continues to spill on a daily basis (52 days and counting). My complicity is more than just about oil. Recently I moved. As I unpacked my things—specifically my clothing—I realized just how much I have. Though there are days when I complain that I have nothing to wear, I have more than enough. My closet runneth over, while many really do not have anything to wear. And because of that, I have declared a clothes shopping moratorium. God has blessed me, but I do not believe that my blessings should perpetuate the lack that others experience. God confirming our souls in self-control would mean living with a real and radical notion of contentment and satisfaction in all things.

Confirm...thy liberty in law...
Our laws are supposed to confirm the liberty of all. But if we were honest, our laws give some freedom and keep others bound. Our justice system is far from just. Too many people in our midst are bound—spiritually and physically, literally and figuratively, We need a revival in this country where the laws are steeped in the mission of Jesus as outlined by the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

What would happen if the Spirit of the Lord was upon our government? What would happen if the Spirit of the Lord was upon our healthcare industry? What would happen if the Spirit of the Lord was upon our education system? What if our laws truly confirmed the liberty of not one, not some, but all?

In thinking about America, and prayers for America, I am drawn to another song. Jill Scott, in her stirring song/poem “My Petition,” calls the United States of America to task on the issues of accountability and reparations and offers a request for change that will begin to move our communities from despair to hope, from excess to enough, from bondage to freedom.
Here is an excerpt where she sings:

You say that I'm wrong for
Stating my opinion to you .
You say that I'm wrong and there'll be quiet consequences too.
But I know my rights babe.
There'll be no law abridging,
The freedom of my speech,
Or the right for me to petition for a remedy of grievances.

I want fresh fruit, clean water,
Air that I don't see.
I want the feeling of being safe on my streets
I want my children to be smarter than me.
I want, I want to feel I want to feel,
I want to feel free
For real ya'll I'm just telling you so you know.
I want to, I want to have faith in you.
I really do but you keep lying to me
It hurts I believe, I believe you owe it me.
Give it to me like you said you would.

It is my prayer, for America specifically, and our world in general, that the Spirit of the Lord would be upon us so that all can be freed from the shackles of bondage and that all can live in the freedom that God desires for us to have.

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