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- Prayers for Freedom

True In-Dependence

Written by Renée Miller

“Great nations,” writes essayist Eboo Patel “are made of righteous strivings.”…[Yet] it is not only great nations that are made of righteous strivings, but also great humans, and healthy relationships. So when we think of independence in terms of our country or in terms of our own personal lives, or in terms of our relationships, we need to ask, “What are we seeking independence from and what are we seeking independence for?”

At first blush we could easily assume that we want independence from slavery, injustice, oppression and domination. Those are certainly an important part of independence, but are we not also seeking independence from all those negative qualities that hold us imprisoned in tombs of our own making? Qualities like anger, greed, refusing to forgive, gossip, joylessness, and seriousness? Qualities like these keep us from becoming what God intends. Qualities like these stunt our ability for righteous striving.

St. Seraphim of Sarov, a Russian saint from the 18th century, wrote:

Men cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. All condemnation is of the devil. Never condemn each other. Not even those whom you catch at the evil deed. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a morass of filth that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Keep away from the spilling of speech. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach the inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, outrage, and will shield your glowing hearts against the evil that creeps around.

So, then, what are we seeking independence for? I believe we’re seeking independence not for the reality of personal freedom alone, but for the reality of being in relationship. Think of independence as in-dependence. We hear a lot about the negative aspects of co-dependence but that is not the same as in-dependence. The reality is that we are in-dependence with one another, with the earth, and with God. We do not live isolated and alone. We are connected with all of creation, and I believe we need to seek to be in that healthy in-dependence with everything living on earth and in heaven.

This might mean that we are people of promise rather than predators. It might also mean that we embrace the counter-intuitive call to love our enemies. It might also mean we work to break down the walls that separate us from each other so that we begin to live from the heart the words of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He said, “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our community as members of the same body.”

What are we seeking independence from? Our own self-absorption. What are we seeking independence for? Living as a community of the same body. Amen.

Copyright ©2003 Calvary Episcopal Church
Excerpted from a sermon delivered at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee, July 4, 2003, Independence Day.