Musings on Independence Day

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

A few years ago, the (now late) pundit Andy Rooney would close the CBS program “60 Minutes” with a few (often times funny!) musings about life or some quirky aspect of it.  As I write this article on July 5th, the day after our country’s Independence Day, I would like to (gently!) throw some musings at you for your reflection, and I would really appreciate your comments — good, bad, or indifferent.  

  • As we celebrate our independence as a nation, we are watching from a distance as our sisters and brothers in Ukraine are being murdered or seriously injured, displaced, or the subject of false statements by the Russian government. “Why isn’t someone doing something about this?” we say. Why isn’t the United Nations sending peace-keeping forces to the border of Russia and Ukraine to establish peace and a lasting truce?  How is this type of violence happening in the 21st Century? Why haven’t we learned anything about the ravages of war and the ultimate outcome of pride and earthly power (which equals “death”)? 

But then I ask myself: 

Am I praying for President Putin and President Zelenskyy and their advisors? Am I praying in the Spirit for all those harmed by this unnecessary war? And am I trying to promote peace in my own little part of the world? Am I praying for those I don’t like and those who don’t like me?  Am I trying to make peace in my family?

  • I understand that at one of our nation’s Independence Day parades, at least 4 people* were killed and many others injured by a random shooter. The recent compromise bill enacted by Congress and signed by our President is a great step in the right direction, but we need as a nation to be serious about how we treat the sale of semi-automatic weapons and mentally or emotionally unstable people. “We are a village,” it is said, and as such, we need to take care of one another, since we are stewards of ALL of God’s creation, including our fellow human beings. 

    As you may know, bullets from an AR-15 rifle make a much larger hole on contact, which is why some of the children killed in the school in Uvalde, Texas needed to be identified by DNA testing. One man interviewed in Texas said that we need AR-15 assault rifles to “kill feral pigs and for skeet shooting.” But couldn’t feral pigs be taken care of with a regular rifle? And do we need a high-power rifle to do skeet shooting? And are we monitoring, personally and through social media, people who are acting or speaking abnormally? Unstable people need to be treated and monitored closely, so that they do no harm to themselves or others.

Here’s a much bigger question for us that needs at least one more article: How do we view ourselves – as individuals with inalienable rights, or as Christians, sisters and brothers in Christ, who are called to sacrifice our selfishness for the sake of the larger community?

  • Yesterday’s fantastic fireworks displays are part and parcels of our July 4th celebrations. The ones my wife Sandy and I saw in Niagara Falls, New York while on vacation were beautiful! However, they remind me of Judas’ remark when he saw Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus’ feet with costly aromatic nard perfume. He said, “Couldn’t some of this money be used to help the poor?” (Gospel writer John said, parenthetically, that Judas didn’t really mean that, since he stole money from the Apostles’ common purse). But I wonder if some of the money our local and county governments use for fireworks could be set aside to help hungry or needy people. However, this points the finger back at you and me, asking if we are as generous to others as God is to us. “Others,” I believe, means the church and other charitable organizations, as well as individual free-will gifts to those we know who are hurting financially, spiritually, or emotionally.
  • One pet peeve that I have had for some time is the practice of sporting teams having an individual sing the National Anthem at the beginning of the game. Isn’t this OUR National Anthem?  If so, why don’t we all sing it together and just have live or pre-recorded instrumental music to guide us if necessary? Do we hire a professional singer to sing “Happy Birthday” to a loved one or friend? Don’t we all just jump in and sing, no matter how bad or good our voices are? That’s why it’s so important for us to remember that singing in church is not solely the choir or folk group’s job. This is part of OUR ministry as members of Christ’ Body, the Church. So, other than an occasional anthem or solo piece reserved for trained musicians, you and I are called to sing our praises to our wonderful and awesome God!

Thanks for reading this, and thank you for all your active support for me and my fellow clergy.

Sincerely, in Jesus Christ, our model for peace and community,

Jim Bernacki+

* As of July 6, at least seven people were killed and more than two dozen were wounded in the shooting at a July Fourth parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.