A Communion Liturgy for the 4th of July
Written by the Reverend Chris McArdle
[Text in plain font is intended to be offered by One;
Text in bold font is intended to be offered by Many.]
When Jesus joined his friends in the upper room, he sought to give them something that would draw them closer together in community and love. That gift was a meal, a sacrament in bread and cup that became the foundation for so much of what was to come. In this sacrament, Jesus asks us to remember him: his life, his love, his death, his return, and his abiding presence among us always.
We remember you, Jesus.
On this July 4, we remember that Americans have long leaned upon flag, fireworks, and gratitude as ways to draw the peoples of our nation closer in community and love. In the best of times, our hearts soar to the sound of brass bands and national hymns. At other times, we remember in sorrow promises unfulfilled, and we dream of a country that may yet achieve its dreams. Inasmuch as we believe that God can help us reach for this blessed future, we cry out:
Come, Holy Spirit!
As walkers of Christ’s Way, we acknowledge that we walk two paths—the path of Jesus and a path of nationality. We confess that when these paths have diverged, we have often tried to keep one foot on each. We wonder if it is possible to serve both God and country. And so we pray to you, O God, that you might help us to live in a way that is faithful to you, a way that inspires us to continually co-create a nation that is humble, just, and kind in all things. For your steadfast care and companionship on this journey, we say:
Thanks be to God.
On this July 4, we remember the Declaration of Independence, in which America-being-born announced its intention to no longer live as a colony of another nation.
On this July 4, we remember that the freedom achieved by revolution was not enjoyed by all peoples in these sacred lands. We remember the African peoples and others brought here in chains, and we remember the Indigenous peoples on whose land we now sit.
We repent of the sins of our forebears, and we resolve to help America achieve its great promise of a land where everyone can live in Safety and Happiness. To that end, we share today in a Declaration of Interdependence.
Declaration of Interdependence
(written by Melanie Bacon)
And so, as people of America who acknowledge a yet higher authority, we pray as Jesus taught us.
One: Now, as a people connected by nationality who long for all lands to become Beloved Community, we share the gifts of the Table in our hope that the Spirit can make it so. We take and eat the bread of life, remembering not just Jesus, but also the planters, the harvesters, the millers, the bakers, and the sellers who made it possible for us to eat today. Take and eat.
(Eat the bread you have brought or been served.)
In like manner, we drink of the cup together, remembering that Jesus poured it for his friends as a sign of God’s covenant of love. As we drink, we remember the planters, the pickers, the vintners and processers, the drivers, the stockers, and the cashiers who made it possible for us to drink today. Take and drink.
(Drink what you have brought or been served.)
Now, as a people fed and nourished, let us sing in thanksgiving for both the love of God and the promise of country.
Suggested Hymn: (New Century Hymnal #594) “How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies” (vv. 1-3)
Note: The New Century Hymnal version of “America the Beautiful” adapts Katharine Lee Bates’ original lyrics (v. 1) and adds new ones by Miriam Therese Winter (vv.2-3) to create a hymn that embraces blessing and hope, love and commitment, and an expansive understanding of world community. Rev. McArdle suggests changing the binary of the last line of v.2 (“sisterhood and brotherhood” to the more inclusive “caring, love-filled neighborhood”).
The Rev. Chris McArdle is the Pastor of Anoka United Church of Christ, in Anoka, MN. A native of Nebraska, Chris grew up in Crete and graduated from Doane University. He earned a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Boston University and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He and his spouse and are parents to one rambunctious child and a stuffed manatee. If you visit his office, don’t be surprised when you find it littered with both Bibles and geeky toys. They feed his soul, even as macaroni & cheese feeds his body.