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Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessons and Hymns for July 4th

This has been sticking in my craw for some time. And, some of you know how I get when something sticks in my craw.

I was not happy with the Memorial Day Celebration. Oh, I threw in some Patriotic hymns and prayers for our nation and one for 'heroic service', but they rang shallow for me, given all that is going on in the world - and in our country - right now.

So, I spent part of my holiday weekend making sure that the next Patriotic Holiday - July 4th - provides us some lessons in history.

Yes, I could preach on it, but I don't think I could be more eloquent than some of language of our historical documents.

So, inspired by one of my brothers, Ernest Cockrill, from El Camino Real, I decided to develop a sort of "Lessons and Hymns" with Eucharist for July 4th.

On the surface, it looks like a long service, but I wish to point out two things: (1) Most of the hymns are 1 - 3 verses long (or, short, actually, for an Episcopal service) and (2) there is no sermon, per se ;~)

All of the prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer. All of the historical quotes are, as near as I can figure, accurate.

So, tell me what you think. I trust your honesty.

PS - Please feel free to "steal, "borrow" or adapt this for your congregation, as you deem appropriate. Appropriate attribution will be deeply appreciated.



Entrance Hymn: 718 "God of Our Fathers"

Blessed be God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies.
And blessed be the Realm of God, now and forever.

BIDDING PRAYER: Hear the words of The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. “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.” As Christians who are Americans, we gather this day to thank God for the gifts of our freedom and liberty, to honor those whose vision, wisdom and sacrifice secured these ‘unalienable Rights’ for us and every generation, to confess that while we believe that all are created equal, we have not always allowed others to enjoy that freedom or those rights; we ask God’s forgiveness and call upon God’s unconditional love and boundless mercy to grant that we may be given the strength and courage to live more fully into our faith and beliefs. Let us pray:

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

Hymn 720 (verse 1) "National Anthem"

Let us now remember our history, that our past may inform our future.


"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."

Hymn 433 "We Gather Together to ask the Lord's blessing"


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Hymn 720 "National Anthem" (verse 2)

MARCH 31, 1776

"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.

"Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.

"Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

"That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up -- the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend.

"Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity?

"Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the (servants) of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness."

Hymn 716 "God Bless or Native Land”


We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.

Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.

Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits.

And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.

At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Hymn 385 "Many & great, O Lord, are thy works"


Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.

Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place.

The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.

So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.

Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ."

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified.

We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

HYMN: "We Shall Overcome" (insert)


With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Hymn 597 "Oh Day of Peace that Dimly Shines" (vs. 1)

The Holy Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, according to Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. 'For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Hymn 597 “Oh Day of Peace that Dimly Shines” (vs. 2)

Let us pray: Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there maybe justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy laws, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of the People Form III Book of Common Prayer 387

The Peace

The Announcements

Offertory Anthem: "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (insert)

The Prayer of Great Thanksgiving Prayer C Book of Common Prayer 369
Sanctus S -
The Lord’s Prayer Book of Common Prayer 364
The Fraction and invitation Book of Common Prayer 364

Communion Hymn 671 “Amazing Grace”

Post-communion Hymn 607 "O God of every nation"
(kneeling as you are able)

Let us pray: O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred with infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Final Blessing

Closing Hymn: 719 "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies"




Fran said...

I am awestruck Elizabeth.

This is extraordinary and if it were possible I would put myself in pew at your church on July 4th.

I thought of you and your post when I attended our Vigil on Saturday. The closing hymn was America the Beautiful.

Typically I mumble along, but on Saturday I just could not do it. With a prayer in my heart and thoughts of you, I stood silently and prayed and realized that I do care much more than I wish to admit what others might think of my actions.

That did not deter me. I stood in silence, as the priest and deacon processed out, the priest - a friend - looked at me and nodded ever so slightly.

Thank you as always and blessings to all.

Fran said...

I just linked to this. I have a pretty eclectic readership, many who do not follow any faith practice.

There are many, as you know, who tend to want to put all people of faith into a tight and conservative corner. Which makes sense as while you are busy working for peace and justice, John Hagee is spewing hate on the MSM.

So anyway, I put a link on a blog round up as I think people could learn a lot from this one visit to Telling Secrets.

FranIam has been a hotbed of discussion lately, with both those of faith and those not of faith entered into lively discussion.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, dearheart. I hope it helps those who struggle with what it means to be 'patriotic' in these days when we are being asked to compromise our constitutional rights in fear of 'terrorism" and the 'threat to democracy".

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, I like your July 4th service. I like it quite a lot. If I had the power, I'd use it just as it is. I wouldn't change a thing. I especially like Abigail Adams words, which I had not known before. Oh, the gaps in my historical knowledge!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Mimi, so much of our historical education has been sadly neglected - and/or censored.

I am one of the biggest offenders - hence, the passion for this liturgy.

Doorman-Priest said...

Just trying to book a flight now. See you there Fran.

Muthah+ said...

Lizbeth, I am so glad you know my good friend Ernest, another righteous and forever salient matriculant of the Brattle St. school. I am not surprised at the power and importance of such a service. I will steal some of this for a Lutheran service for the same day. Thanks

RFSJ said...

Hi Elizabeth,

This is really excellent! I really like what you've selected and how you've structured it. The only thing I didn't "get" was your selection of the Gospel. Maybe I'm just slow this afternoon, but since there is so sermon each element has to speak for itself. How was it you chose that Gospel reading? It must be obvious to everyone but me!



Paul Davison said...


This is lovely! It has become a quasi-tradition in our church that I preach the Sunday closest to July 4 and here's the comment I made last year about the language from the Declaration that you include:

These words from the Declaration of Independence had a new idea—that all men (and women) are created equal—that their rights come from God, not an earthly King—and that these rights prove themselves. We know, of course, that our ancestors did not always live up to these ideals. Nor do we today. Being human, they sinned and fell short. Women were not considered "equal" to men. Some men and women were so unequal that we treated them as mere property. We fell short and fall short. But the ideals remain, calling us to be better than ourselves, speaking to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."

I think there was some surprise at hearing Abraham Lincoln quoted in middle Georgia!

JimB said...

Hmmm.... I may actually be nearby that week. If I am, I will want to attend. Do you know yet when it will be celebrated?

It is a brilliant piece of work -- intense, appropriate, and focused. Mosel Tov!


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm going to use this on Sunday, July 6th. The gospel selection is the one appointed in the Common Lectionary for that Sunday. I know. Go figure.

I love the Abraham Lincoln quote. I'm saving it for another time.

Bill sent me a quote from Edward R. Murrow from the McCarthy era. I've got that one in my file, too.

And, Jim B - C'mon down. We've got a guest room in the rectory if you need a place to hang your hat.

Paul Powers said...

I really like it...a lot! I would change is I would add one more lesson from the Bible. The OT lesson for July 4 in the lectionary (Deuteronmy 10:17-21)is fairly short, and its reference to loving strangers (foreigners)is something we need to be reminded of in the current anti-immigrant climate. My only remaining quibble is that imho all services of public worship in an Episcopal Church should include the Lord's Prayer.

Still and all, I think it's a beautiful liturgy that sets just the right tone.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks Paul. Did you notice that this service DOES contain The Lord's Prayer? Somewhere in seminary, I learned that all Eucharistic services must have (1) the Gospel read (2) the Gospel proclaimed - i.e. preached (3) More than just the priest in attendance and (4) The Lord's Prayer said.

Paul Powers said...

Yikes, I missed the Lord's Prayer in there. In fact, I missed the fact that it's part of a communion service. That's fine; although I think it would also work as a stand-alone liturgy.

VTcrone said...

Lovely service. May I make one suggestion that you use the Hymn "Simple Gifts" but with Carol G. King's words?
(You don't have to post this.)

JimB said...


I have a lovely arraingment of Simple Gifts I play on my dulcimers. Can you point me at your prefered lyrics?



Rev Elizabeth, I am guessing others might not know them.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your work on this. I'm filling the pulpit at a Baptist church this coming Fourth of July for which they also what me to design the worship. Having served churches in the U.S., Japan, and Thailand I have an inner struggle presenting patriotism in public worship. I remember when a college exchange student from France visited my church in Kansas she was absolutely shocked that our national flag was in the sanctuary. She asked many questions about this - as in how Americans could claim some type of ownership on God - and do we see being patriotic and Christian as connected somehow. She told me she had never seen a French flag in church back in France. My explanation was that having the flag present was a reminder to prayer for our nation (she accepted this). Anyway, I've been scrutinizing hymns looking for appropriate ones for Fourth of July which lift up God as opposed to lifting up praise of country.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your work on this. I'm filling the pulpit at a Baptist church this coming Fourth of July for which they also what me to design the worship. Having served churches in the U.S., Japan, and Thailand I have an inner struggle presenting patriotism in public worship. I remember when a college exchange student from France visited my church in Kansas she was absolutely shocked that our national flag was in the sanctuary. She asked many questions about this - as in how Americans could claim some type of ownership on God - and do we see being patriotic and Christian as connected somehow. She told me she had never seen a French flag in church back in France. My explanation was that having the flag present was a reminder to prayer for our nation (she accepted this). Anyway, I've been scrutinizing hymns looking for appropriate ones for Fourth of July which lift up God as opposed to lifting up praise of country.