It’s the Fourth of July…our nation’s birthday. As I returned from walking this morning clouds were building, sometimes blocking the sun briefly. The view captured here struck me…the sun shining through the blue field on the flag just before disappearing. I thought of endurance.
Our nation was formed two-hundred-forty-two years ago. Today’s newspaper carried the full text of the Declaration of Independence, which I read at breakfast. The ideals that formed our nation were like sunlight bringing faith, hope, purpose–a higher view into a world landscape frequently marred by greed, self-interest, intolerance, and hatred–clouds that confuse and disrupt life.
Clouds always fascinate me. They can move in with a vengeance, bearing storms that kill and destroy. They can also paint an overarching canvas of majestic radiance across a sunset landscape. Clouds change constantly. Sometimes, as this morning, they can swallow the sun, dimming its presence. But the sun has endurance. the storms pass, the sun returns.
At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln described this enduring sun that our nation represents. He defined it as government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” That’s what makes us different, strong, flexible, tolerant, and durable. Sometimes clouds of dissent dim the sunlight of our character, but we come through those ordeals with strength and resolve, wiser for the experience. We have endurance.
It was on a July morning sixty-two years ago that I stood in a U.S. Army recruiting station and took an oath to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic–to be part of the sun that endures beyond the clouds. Recently one of my grandsons did the same thing. He said his country had given him so much, and he wanted to give back. He wanted to be part of keeping the sun shining.
At the heart of this nation’s formation was a faith in God’s enduring love and purpose, and a desire to order life around that source of sunlight. That center of endurance will persist with us as long as we remain connected to God at the core of who we are. Today there are many clouds moving across our landscape. Sometimes the sun seems to disappear. But clouds always dissipate, and the sunlight is still there.
Faith, love, hope, and trust in God are essential at the heart of life…of our choices, actions, attitudes, behavior, hopes and dreams…in order for us to be people of sunlight and strength. We will suffer, grow, and change over the years, but endurance for such times comes from the sun, not the clouds. Psalm 136:1 says it well: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (NRSV)