Freedom Is As Freedom Does

Freedom Is As Freedom Does

Bishop Gary E. Mueller

I have always loved the Fourth of July. It’s a time to be with family and friends, eat picnic food and of course engage in the art of firework pyrotechnics.

The Fourth is a time to celebrate the birthday of our nation. But like celebrating the birthdays of those we love, we don’t just celebrate their birth, we celebrate their life. This is why I take time every Independence Day to give thanks that I am a citizen of this nation and have the blessings of freedom.

I have a unique relationship with the Fourth of July that goes all the way back to July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My middle name is Ellis. It’s a family name that has been passed on from generation to generation. Several years ago I discovered the reason it’s such an important family name is because one of my ancestors named Ellis, was born July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia.

Freedom is at the very heart of who we are as Americans. This is why it is so important, especially in this age of polarization and division, to reflect on the meaning and future of freedom.

Freedom is an inalienable right woven into the very fabric of creation by God. Ultimately, God has created human beings to be free and to exercise freedom. Of course, this can be a risky venture because people can choose to use freedom for harm and not for good. But freedom remains at the heart of who we are created to be.

Freedom is often messy. When our nation was founded in the quest for greater freedom, it occurred at a time when Black Americans, women, and those living in poverty were excluded from the blessing of freedom. However, freedom ultimately has a way of growing that enables it to be experienced by more and more people. This quest for justice is often difficult and painful, but thankfully it continues even today.

Freedom must be protected. It seems to be constantly in danger; sometimes from forces without and too often from forces within. Protecting freedom often involves great personal sacrifice. Thankfully people continue to be willing to stand up to ensure its continuation.

Freedom can often devolve into selfishness and self-centeredness. Too often it is reduced to “what I can do when I want to do it and how I want to do it.” This is not true freedom. True freedom is discovered in Jesus Christ, who shows us what it means to live free from sin and to live fully in God’s grace.

We are stewards of freedom. We are called to maximize God’s gift of freedom for everyone. At the same time, we have a responsibility to cultivate freedom that is responsible, healthy and a manifestation of the freedom God has given us all.

The older I get, the more I realize how blessed I am to live in the United States of America, a nation that continues to embrace the great experiment of freedom. It is my hope and prayer that I will use my freedom to help our nation be a beacon of hope, light and freedom for all.

May God bless America – and may America seek to bless God in all that we do.

Memorial Day 2022

I am more profoundly grateful with each passing year of my life for those who gave their lives defending our nation. Each one made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live. Each one of them had a life filled with endless plans and possibilities that ended far too soon. Each one was cut down in the prime of life. Each one left behind family and friends with broken hearts and unending grief. May we always remember them.. May we always give thanks to God for their service. And may we live in ways that honor their memories.

A Sunday Prayer

Lord God,

We pray for the children today.

Those slaughtered in Uvalde and those who will live with its horror the rest of their lives. Those who live far away from Uvalde and wonder if they will be safe sitting in their classrooms. Those whose lives are shaped by a culture of violence, with damage that will unfold in tragic ways still unforeseen.

We pray for the children today.

Those in our communities and those in communities around the world who go to bed hungry every night. Those who have virtually no chance to break the cycle of poverty simply because they can’t read on level by the third grade. Those who live in homes where physical and mental abuse run rampant, all too often dooming them to repeat the same cycle.

We pray for the children today.

Those we hold every night and those we hold in our hearts. Those we know well and those we will never know. Those whose lives we can impact, those whose lives we can only watch and those we will never know are alive..

May we be Christ for all of these children.

Amen.

God’s Going to Show Up

Last evening I was in the middle of alternating back and forth between finishing my Episcopal Address for Annual Conference and doing my laundry. Yes, it’s what bishops do. As I walked by the windows running along the back of the house, I looked out and saw the most beautiful sunset. It took my breath away and caused me to stop in my tracks, and I just watched. And I suspect anyone watching would have seen a smile spread across my face. It was like God was saying, “Gary, I appear in the most amazing ways at just the right time.” It’s true. God does. So be on the lookout because God’s going to show up for you sometime today.

Hope Is Always Present

There are days life just slams you and you struggle to deal with it. But then you hear about a tragedy so horrific that you cannot imagine the pain, despair, grief and hopelessness in that situation. So you say, “My problems are nothing in comparison.” And you stuff it deep down in your soul. While what happens to others may put your life in perspective, it does not negate your pain, hurt or disappointment. God is with those who are trying to pick up the pieces after a horrible tragedy. God is also with you as you try to deal with what’s going on in your life. Indeed, God is with everyone who struggles, grieves, hurts or is abused. That’s because God’s love is so large that there’s more than enough to go around. And that means healing is real. New life is real. And hope is always present.

One Thing We Can Do

I suspect I’m like you because I cannot get the massacre in Uvalde out of my mind. And as I have been thinking, grieving, getting angry and praying about it, I have also listened to the national conversation that involves everything from explaining to blaming to condemning to justifying. Quite frankly, the only conclusion I can reach is that we have lost our minds because we cannot do what should be the easiest thing in the world to do – agree on what matters most. Of course, there are many considerations that need to be taken into account because it is a very complex matter. But all Christians – regardless of theological perspective – should agree on our priority because Jesus already has made that priority abundantly clear. It’s the children. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Matthew 19:14 NIV).” So at a time when all of us are trying to figure out what we do to end the pandemic of gun violence, there is one thing we can do right now. We can come together in one voice and keep talking to our friends, neighbors, co-worker and political leaders until protecting our children becomes the starting point this nation embraces for ending this abomination.