|Liturgy by TLW|
Worship Ideas for Independence Weekend
by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
While Independence Day does not fall within the Church Year calendar as a festival to be observed, it is nonetheless appropriate that something be done within the liturgy of this holiday weekend to give thanks for the freedoms we share in this great land, including the freedom to worship.
I have generally taken a minimalist's approach to the liturgy for the day, meaning that basic texts and hymns for the day reflect the lectionary propers that are assigned. No changes in color or texts or basic liturgy or even sermon theme, unless there is a convenient interweaving of the observance with the assigned text for the day.
There are however some small things that can be done to mark the occasion.
1. An additional prayer may be said following the assigned Prayer of the Day. At the end of the propers section of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Book of Worship is a prayer for a "National Holiday" that reads as follows:
"Lord of the nations, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom. Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony, but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring glory to your name and blessings to all peoples, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord." (ELW)
2. A Litany could easily be constructed from prayers in the ELW's "Additional Prayers under "Civic Life, Government, Nations" (pp.76f) and in the LBW's "Petitions, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings" (pp.42f). Prayer titles listed there include Peace, The Nation, Our Country, State and Local Governments, Responsible Citizenship, Courts of Justice, Cities, Towns and Rural Areas, The Neighborhood, etc. Remember to drop the last phrase, "through Jesus Christ our Lord..." from each petition.
3. Although I know that there are many who have some objection to flags in the worship space, still I can remember attending Episcopal church services in my late youth when the American flag was carried in the entrance procession and was dipped in reverence before the altar before being placed in its stand. Perhaps this is the one day of the year when the American flag might be used in such a way as part of our thanksgiving for our nation and our freedoms.
4. In addition, perhaps a local scout troop could be asked to carry that flag in procession on Independence weekend. One would have to reckon with this being a holiday weekend, of course, when many people might be traveling.
5. A children's sermon for the day might include something about the freedoms we as Christians celebrate with our nation's Independence Day.
6. For a little more expanded rite, yet still remaining quite small, consider inserting the following after the Post Communion Prayer:
Exhortation and Prayer on a National Holiday:
P. On July 4, 1776, our forefathers bravely advanced the cause of freedom and liberty by declaring this nation's independence and sovereignty and that all her citizens possessed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness given by our Creator. It is appropriate therefore as we celebrate our nation's ____nd/th birthday that we give thanks to that Creator for our liberties and pray for continued blessings upon our country, our government and our fellow citizens.
A. The earth is the Lord's,
C. And all who dwell in it.
A. God is king over the nations:
C. God sits on his holy throne.
A. He rules by his might forever.
C. His eyes keep watch on the nations.
A. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
C. For God judges the peoples with equity and guides the nations upon earth.
A. O Lord, be gracious to us and bless us,
C. And make your face to shine upon us.
A. May your ways be known upon the earth,
C. Your saving power among all peoples.
P. Lord of the nations, guide our people by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom. Give us what outward prosperity may be your will, but above all things, give us faith in you, that our nation may bring glory to your name and blessings to all peoples; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (LBW 153)
Benediction, Dismissal, Closing Hymn
6. For the Closing Hymn, I would suggest either "God Bless Our Native Land" or "My Country, `Tis of Thee." If you use the latter, be sure you use st. 4, which praises God as author of liberty.