The 4th of July has always been my least favorite holiday. I enjoy it even less than Arbor Day. Don’t get me wrong, I esteem and appreciate what we commemorate; but heat, the crowds, the mosquitoes…Yuck. John Adams recognized not just the importance of the signing of the Declaration but he also he seemed to anticipate its significance to future citizens. My version of the story goes like this.
One evening shortly after signing the historic document Adams was at home relaxing. There was a knock on the door. “Abigail you get that” he shouted. But the knocking persisted. “Abigail. Abigail.” She was nowhere to be found. His rest interrupted, grudgingly he moved to the door. His frustration grew with each step. When he heatedly swung open the door there was cousin Samuel. Seeing Samuel quickly changed John’s mood. From early childhood the two had been close buddies. They shared so much in common. Their taste in food, agriculture, literature. And books; oh my how they loved to read, explore new places and ideas. After independently reading they would spending hours conversing about what they had learned. Perhaps because of that common interest they felt drawn to civil action. Politics. Both were signers of the Declaration.
In fact, Samuel’s visit was motivated by his wish to celebrate that event. Samuel was there to commemorate the completion of the long, tedious process that had recently produced the signing of The Declaration of Independence. To celebrate the moment Samuel had brought along a freshly brewed batch of John’s favorite ale. Noticing Samuel’s gift, John devised a plan. They would pour two mugs, move their chairs closer to the television and watch the World Cup. Immediately their conversation began with the 2 of them firing questions at some apparently invisible third guest? “How did Iceland qualify, and the U. S. A. couldn’t’?” They suddenly were shouting. Finally, they calmed down. The explanation became obvious. A lack of time to prepare. “We are new to this. Surely by 2018 things will be different.” Mugs were raised, and toasts were made to the future of USA soccer.
Samuel left leaving John alone to think. He wondered if future generations would appreciate what this group of men had accomplished. After all, they had risked their lives in the process. Benjamin Franklin (the oldest signer of the Declaration) famously had declared "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." Over the next week or so John continued to grapple with how the future generation would remember these events. While away he wrote home to Abigail summarizing his thoughts. He wrote: (this part is true)
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”Talk about vision. He pretty much nailed it. Just remove the “solemn acts of devotion” and substitute with drinking kegs of beer and a hot dog eating contest.
This is where it might get a bit corny. This is a great nation. That fact is, at least partly the cause behind many of our problems today. Ok--time to do the obligatory disclaimer. The country is not perfect. Spoiler alert….it never will be. Oh, by the way it never was. Despite the flaws, thousands of people are drawn to this country, willing to risk everything they own, even separation of family to get here. Undeniably many are still inspired by the principles and goals articulated in that founding document. The opportunities resulting from the pursuit of the “Founders” dream is a magnet to those from around the world.
So, I have a suggestion. Aside from all the traditional ways we celebrate this day, maybe this year we can begin a new tradition. Let’s commit to seeking a path of mutual benefit not mutual destruction. How do we do this? I’m not totally certain. There is one thing I do know. You can read for yourself in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. There Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, all kings and all who are in authority, so we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
One author paraphrases the verse this way: “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” That sounds very refreshing and revitalizing to me.
“Talk” again soon.