Come Tuesday many of us will spend time in the dark staring up at sudden bursts of light overhead. Fireworks that find the dogs running for cover. I’m guessing they’d rather we didn’t celebrate Independence Day. It doesn’t fit their idea of what’s meet and right so to do. Like the ram in our first reading today, the only hope for the dogs is running away.
Oddly enough, in 1776, not everyone felt the same way about the American Revolution. “Anglican” clergy, for one, had sworn allegiance to the English crown in their ordination rites. They’d made a holy vow. Only 28 percent of them were patriots, willing to break that vow. The rest were British loyalists or neutral.
Both sides were full of righteous men with opposing ideas of what was meet and right so to do. When the war ended, the mixed bag of remaining colonial clergy began the difficult work of establishing a revolutionary church for a revolutionary nation. Their plans for the first American Book of Common Prayer removed allegiance to the Crown. That was the easy part. The hard part was deciding how best to commemorate Independence Day.
Patriotic clergy proposed a collect for the day. Naturally, former loyalists dreaded its inclusion. The issue was resolved when the patriots decided to withdraw it for the time being.  It was a gesture of hospitality made toward their loyalist brothers. You could say they landed on the side of welcome, the same welcome Jesus lifts up in our gospel today: the hope of welcome before all else, the hope of welcoming Christ in other people.
As it turns out, the Collect for Independence Day didn’t make our prayer book until 1928. I plan to read it today just after the prayers of the people. I’m pretty sure it’s a prayer we welcome.
Today Jesus bids us welcome pretty much everyone, and suggests that in welcoming a righteous person we welcome him. Leaning into his welcoming project, I’d like to explore not the work of patriots doing their best to welcome loyalists, but the more ancient project of welcoming Father Abraham.
It’s not an easy project, at least not today it isn’t. But welcome isn’t supposed to be easy, else Jesus wouldn’t have mentioned it, would he? He’d have taken it for a no-brainer. So l ask you today to welcome Father Abraham caught in the act of binding his son Isaac as a sacrificial offering to God. He’s a righteous man doing what he thinks is meet and right so to do. And yet, and yet, you have to wonder about that. Read more