by the Reverend Karen Maurer, Associate Vicar

Fourth of July was my favorite holiday when I was a child. The freedom I enjoyed growing up on a cul-de-sac street with lots of other kids was an absolute joy, especially on the 4th.

Our day began with a pipe being sunk in a neighbor’s front lawn so that, with the aid of cherry bombs and a tennis ball, we could play 3 flies & you’re up until the ball finally disintegrated. Our flag-draped neighborhood always pooled resources and purchased loads of safe and sane fireworks. Because a neighbor had some connections, we also had some not so safe and very insane fireworks! Picnic tables and BBQs filled the cul-de-sac, a scaffold was built for all the pinwheels and various fireworks to be shot off. Meanwhile, the kids rode decorated bikes around the neighborhood, replete with playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes. We were dressed in our red, white and blue clothing and ate our fill of corn on the cob, hamburgers, hot dogs, Jell-O, potato salads, and hand-churned ice-cream.

The ideals of liberation for all which we celebrate on the 4th, were completely lost on me at the time, but as I have aged (and I have aged some!), my understanding and appreciation of freedom has grown and deepened. I am grateful for the freedom to speak freely, worship and work without fear of persecution. I am grateful that, while it took several generations, women can now serve in every capacity in the civic arena, in the corporate world and in the Episcopal Church.

And yet, we must remember that while our country was founded on ideals of freedom for all, We the People have often failed to protect and defend the freedoms of others. Even as our Founding Fathers were penning the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, many of them owned slaves and did not seem to make the connection that they were not living by the exalted principle that, “All men (and women) are created equal.”

The blight of slavery continues to haunt us to this day as we recognize the unjust treatment of women and people of color, even as we grapple with evidence being brought to light of Native American children who were taken from their families to be “educated” in schools designed to erase their heritage and traditions. In both Canada and the United States, mass graves containing these children who were never re-united with their parents, are being discovered on the school grounds where these atrocities occurred.

So, while I enjoyed my freedom as a child, so very many other children and adults suffered at the hands of people who should have been fighting to protect them. As a nation, we failed to live up to the freedoms we celebrate on Independence Day. As I grapple with this truth, what am I to do? Educating myself is a place to start. In the Adult Forum we have read some helpful books, had some wonderful holy conversations, and purposed to learn more as we have recognized that the ugly aspects of American history were not included in our history books when we were growing up. As I have processed all that I am learning, I must own up to the fact that, while I didn’t personally commit these atrocities, I most certainly benefitted due to my white skin and middle-class upbringing. As a person of faith and one who seeks to serve God, I can and must do better by working to create a more level playing field. I know one of the tools in my tool belt is loving with all I’ve got. The Dalai Lama has wisely stated, “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”

As children of God, tasked with embodying the reign of God that Christ inaugurated, where do we begin to live into and model authentic freedom? How do we seek to, “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,” as Micah wrote so many centuries ago? I recently came across a wonderful quote from the book, Not in God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks, who is the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. In his reflection about the connection between faith and moral conviction, he says, “Abraham himself sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith. It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity of belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world. The use of religion for political ends is not righteousness but idolatry…To invoke God to justify violence against the innocent is not an act of sanctity but of sacrilege.”

This call is not to legislate, debate or involve ourselves in theological or political hair-splitting. It is a simple call to action. We are to do more than just talk. Imagine how seeking to be a blessing might introduce some positive change into our polarized country and troubled world. What if we, as a Christian community, modeled such blessing, such love, such freedom to be all we are created to be as lovers of God and each other? It most certainly is worth a try!

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Here’s Sunday’s July 4th bulletin. Please either print the bulletin at home and bring it to church with you Sunday morning, or bring your smart device to the service so you can pull up the bulletin. Thanks for helping us reduce use of paper and toner!

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Here’s What’s Happening at St. John’s (full details here).
+ Saturday evening In-person worship is at 5 p.m. today. Join us!
+ RSM Cares Food Pantry is Wednesday, July 7. Drop food donations at church Monday or Tuesday, then volunteer Wednesday.
+ Laundry Love is Wednesday, July 7 — volunteer anytime between 5:45 to 10 p.m.
+ Godly Play, Sunday School, and the Nursery are open to receive your children!
+ Coffee Hour is Back! Join us after the Sunday service on the lower courtyard (Learning Commons Courtyard) which is the perfect spot to hold coffee hour where tables, comfortable seating, and shade abound. We even have an elevator you can use to get there!
+ Youth Group meets next on ZOOM July 7 at 7 p.m. Contact Patti Peebles for more info.
+  Caregiving Mosaics meets Wednesday, July 14 via ZOOM. Details in the News link.
+ Youth and Adult confirmations with Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce set for Sunday, September 12. Details in the News link.
+ Women’s Hybrid Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, 10:15 – 11:30 a.m. at DJ Gomer’s home. Hybrid = in-person and on ZOOM.
+ Women’s luncheon, “Sisters Who Converse”, is Saturday, July 24, 11:30 a.m. at Tutto Fresco, RSM. Details in the News link.
+  Harry Elliott’s memorial service is Wednesday, July 28, 2 p.m.
More news/events/volunteer opportunities are right here.

We’re back on campus:
Clergy and staff are back in the Church Office. Schedule a time to come to the church office and meet face-to-face. Contact Rev. Christopher at 949.888.4568, or Rev. Karen at 949.888.4595, x239.

In-Person Worship Schedule:
• Evening Prayer or Compline ZOOM services continue to be held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. Get the links by signing up for the Saturday eblast. 
• Sunday morning worship will be held in-person at church and on ZOOM at 9 a.m.
• Saturday worship inside the church at 5 p.m.

We’ll see you at St. John’s!