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Missional Opportunities and the Fourth of July

As an immigrant and non-citizen, for years, I found it challenging to fully embrace Independence Day. While I am grateful for this country, at times, I have felt marginalized by the underlying sense of exceptionalism that can permeate the celebration. This feeling can be amplified when national pride mixes with religious fervor in a way that is detrimental to both our society and the Church. 

Yet, over time, as I’ve joined with my neighbors and community in celebrating the holiday, my understanding of this season and its potential has changed. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the genuine sense of community and shared identity that is prevalent in local celebrations over time. This civic affection brings neighborhoods together, bridging cultural gaps and fostering meaningful conversations.

While I remain cautious of its misappropriation, I have recognized the potential of this holiday to unite communities and facilitate genuine interactions. Some of the most meaningful opportunities to connect with non-believers, build relationships with neighbors, and address local needs have emerged during this holiday. It is a time when we acknowledge our differences but also recognize our shared local community based on a deeper sense of belonging.

In our polarized culture, it is common to engage in debates about the historical and societal significance of holidays. This can be healthy, allowing us to understand the purpose of our celebrations and reflect on their significance to ourselves and others. Yet these debates can also be distracting, preventing us from recognizing the rare opportunities that holidays present to reach beyond the traditional boundaries and divisions of modern life.

As churches prepare to celebrate Independence Day, it is important not to overlook the unique potential this season offers to engage with our neighbors on a mission. Look for ways to invite others to join in the celebration or to participate in broader community events, and be open to listening to their stories and sharing our own. This simple act of invitation and engagement is the foundation of our mission and the most powerful tool at our disposal to make a positive impact on our communities.