This July 4th the United States will celebrate 241 years as a nation.

I was reading the Declaration of Independence and noticed a few very significant phrases. Our founding fathers believed that this Nation should be formed to assume “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle [us]”, and “that all [persons] are created equal …”, and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

After listing the numerous offenses of the Crown the Fathers cited as the cause of the move to independence, the Representatives of the United States in America appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [their] intentions …”

Our founding fathers recognized the gifts of God and their responsibility to God as “Supreme Judge” and “Creator”. This more perfect union was set forth to provide the freedoms we have all been accustomed to, especially, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Unfortunately, it seems that we often abuse our freedom of speech and employ words that hurt. With freedom comes great responsibility. Adam and Eve had great freedom and, although God had provided everything they would ever need, they abused their freedom by falling into the trap of selfishness set by the serpent Devil. The obvious result of that choice has been devastating to all of humankind.

The gift of grace given through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us back the freedom to make right choices, but we must exert the effort to make those choices.

With freedom comes great responsibility, both personally and as a nation. We have a responsibility to maintain the principles on which our Nation was founded. We must support our right to free speech by listening to the voices of others with equal respect that we have for our own voices.

We must work together to strengthen our communities by upholding the dignity of all persons. I believe we must respect the authority of the Creator and God of all nature, and our Supreme Judge. Enjoy your freedom while respecting the freedom of others. Take time to show respect to God. Pray for peace. Pray for each other.

“If my people … will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The healing starts at home and in our hearts. God bless America.

Blessings and Peace,

Fr. David+

Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at frdavid@standrewsgrove.org.