The first of May was quite a day! It dawned cloudy but warm; then the weather waned into a rainy, cold, and blustery day. May flowers have been in a fight to survive, for in the days that followed the cold got worse and the rain became sleet and snow. When is spring beginning?
Yet even in the midst of the increasing gloom, the sun did shine for just a moment. A class from Washington School visited our home. When I went to the door I found a delightful May Day basket of spring colors, two candy bites, and good wishes from the children. As the young ones departed, I raised my voice and waved my hand in gratitude, and I was blessed again with a cheering response. What a wonderful surprise and uplifting moment. May Day became a very special day.
Later in the day, I realized another very special observance on May first. The first day of May is “Law Day.” For Americans it is the annual observance and reminder of our wonderful heritage of being a people who live under the “rule of Law” and not by the whim and will of a despotic ruler. We are reminded that no American is “above the Law.” Even the President, who in many ways is the most powerful person in the world, remains subject to, and limited by, the even more powerful Constitution of the United States of America. For 213 years that document has been the focus of our allegiance, our protection and our responsibilities. Throughout the world dictators, despots and tyrants rise and fall through wars, uprisings, and rebellions. In America, however, under the Constitutional provisions, the American people regularly chose their leaders by free elections and then those elected presidents serve the electorate for their constitutionally limited terms and then pass power peacefully. We are a miraculous people, and Law Day serves to remind every American of that blessed truth.
It also hopefully reminds us of the debt due the many “attorneys at law” who practice their profession insuring every American the proper implementation of, and protection under, the freedoms and privileges guaranteed by, with, and through that Constitution. Lawyers take a lot of unfair “hits,” sarcasms, and jokes; too many of us ridicule this vital arm of the law. We need lawyers for we enjoy freedom; only those governed by an absolute dictator need no attorneys. The dictator is the arbiter of disagreements and conflicts, the judge of what is right and wrong, his favor is to prosper; his disfavor can be fatal. But we Americans live under the “rule of Law”, with freedoms guaranteed and protected by attorneys who defend us, who prosecute us if we break the law, and with a strong law enforcement establishment that protect us. On Law Day we are called to give thanks for all these many legal blessings and protections bestowed upon us by living under the “rule of law.”
Page 2 of 3 - Then, lo and behold, the next day, May 2, was designated “National Day of Prayer” — a day to pray for America. I believe in prayer; my wife and I begin every day with an extended time in prayer. We have a conversation with the Lord Jesus about many who suffer, about those in need, and for victims of various oppressions. There is much for which to pray. In the Episcopal Church the pattern suggested for prayer is: adoration — acknowledging God’s greatness; thanksgiving — remembering His vast goodness; confession — facing the truth of, and asking forgiveness for, our many failures; intercession — remembering those in any need; and finally, petition — supplication for personal blessings. With many of us, No. 3 is the most difficult. Facing honestly the depth and degree of hurt we’ve caused others is a difficult exercise. Humans are masters of self-delusion, of making excuses, of blaming others, individually and corporately. The first original sin was rebellion against God; the second was blaming someone else for it. I wonder when America responds to the National Day of Prayer will we as a people be able to do step No. 3 and honestly confess our wrongs. Can we face and ask forgiveness for initiating two unnecessary and immoral wars against nations who did us no wrong, wars that resulted in the death of thousands with even more thousands continuing to suffer? Can we ask forgiveness for establishing for the first time an American Concentration Camp (Gitmo) that we still can’t find a just and humane way to deal with incarcerated, yet only suspected, enemies? Can we ask forgiveness for making torture part of our national policy or for “CIA Rendition flights” that secretly transported suspected enemies to countries who would use torture? Can we ask forgiveness for continuing to produce, sell, and prosper from deadly weapons increasingly made readily available to anyone; weapons that subsequently are used to murder more and more innocents? Can we ask forgiveness for an economy where only 1 percent of the population prospers while the rest struggle and where a CEO can make 1,700 plus times more than what a clerk makes? Can we ask forgiveness for the ongoing oppression, rejection and condemnation of American citizens because their skin is a different color, they wear strange attire, or their sexual orientation is different? Can we ask forgiveness for continually proclaiming on TV that “drugs cure all ills,” that “violence solves problems,” and that “sex” is the only measure of worth, and then punish our children for doing what we tell them to do: use drugs, act violently and have abortions?
On May 2, I imagine most will proudly pray “God bless America” as an expectation from God. Many Americans really believe that we are the new chosen people. Surely God loves us best! He should bless us! Hopefully, however, a few will cry “God bless America” as a plea for forgiveness for our past sins and guidance to new and more blessed national life with real “liberty and justice for all” with a strong policy of peace toward all. Prayer is good but it does make a difference for what we pray and to whom.
Page 3 of 3 - The early days of May indeed have much to say.
Fr. Bob Layne, is a retired Episcopal priest, living in McPherson.