October 24, 2017

Why I won’t be going to church Sunday

briarwoodflag-0703jpg-aa41ffcefc015fdf_largeLast week, our pastor announced that we would be having a patriotic service on the Sunday of July 4th weekend.

I won’t be there.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I love my country, the United States of America.

I have no trouble displaying the flag on appropriate occasions (though my wife, with her Mennonite background, is not enthusiastic about the idea).

I appreciate our nation’s heritage of liberty and opportunity, and am proud that we have been able to change our Constitution and laws over the years to deal with our blind spots and make that more available to everyone.

I love the land in which we live, in all its breathtaking beauty and variety.

I enjoy the diversity of cultures that find a home in the U.S.

I love our history of entrepreneurism, our “can do” spirit, the generosity of our people, and the idealism with which we approach life.

On the other hand, I am often critical of our country and its leaders, policies, and actions, as well as the prejudices and parochialism many of us display, both here and abroad. There are aspects of our past and present which deeply disturb, embarrass, and grieve me, but the freedom to voice my critiques openly is another reason I’m glad to be a citizen of the U.S.

I don’t find it incompatible to be a follower of Jesus Christ and one who loves his country. One’s national heritage is a gift of God’s common grace. Those of us who have enjoyed life in places that are beautiful, free, and abounding with prosperity have received more than a common share of God’s blessings in this regard. I find it incumbent to thank God for this. I pray my children and children’s children will likewise enjoy these gifts.

We emphasize this regularly in church, too. Most worship services in our congregation include prayers of thanksgiving and intercession that relate to our daily lives where we live, our leaders, crisis situations our nation or community faces, and so on. We pray for justice and peace, for wisdom and the common good. We remember our dead, including those who have died as members of the military. We petition God to protect those currently serving in harm’s way. It is my opinion that church leaders should encourage their parishioners to be good citizens who are involved in their communities, working to strengthen its institutions, contributing to the well being of their neighbors through good works of love.

But I abhor civil religion. I cannot tolerate the mingling of God and country that is represented in so many churches in the U.S. on holidays like Independence Day. The sanctuary is not the place for patriotic display, singing hymns to America, and venerating the red, white, and blue.

In his excellent article, Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Church Service, Trevin Wax tells of the following encounter:

The first time I ever questioned the appropriateness of patriotism in worship was when I was doing mission work in Romania.

After I had learned the language and settled into ministry in a village church, I remember asking a pastor friend why we didn’t do a special service in December that celebrated Unification Day (Romania’s national holiday). I also wondered why the Romanian flag wasn’t in the sanctuary.

The pastor looked at me funny and then said: “The only way we’d bring a Romanian flag into our sanctuary is if we brought in flags from all over the world.” 

“To show you do missions?” I said, trying to find a reference point from my own culture.

“No, to show we are the church.”

Exactly.

“Make disciples of all nations” is our mandate. If churches were to honor our citizenship in Heaven and the membership of the one, holy, and apostolic church by use of flags, we would include them all. No nation’s flag would find a higher place than any other. Yet I recently saw an ad for a patriotic church service celebrating Independence Day with the title, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” What’s wrong with this picture?

Such programs betray a fundamental lack of clear theological thinking among many Christians in the U.S.

church flagWhat is the Church, in relation to our identities as members of nations?

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul identifies Christians as ambassadors for Christ.” Let’s explore this one metaphor for a moment. A church sanctuary where Christians gather to worship is like an embassy, a consulate, a diplomatic mission, a foreign space marked out in the territory of whatever nation and community it finds itself.

Here’s how our government describes the relationship of an embassy to its host country:

While diplomatic spaces remain the territory of the host state, an embassy or consulate represents a sovereign state. International rules do not allow representatives of the host country to enter an embassy without permission –even to put out a fire — and designate an attack on an embassy as an attack on the country it represents.

That is a description akin to what Jesus said: “In the world but not of the world.”

As a diplomatic mission of the Kingdom of God, our churches represent the homeland to our host countries and work to foster bilateral relations. The U.S. diplomatic website linked above describes the U.S.A.’s consulates as: “the public face of the United States of America in the host country.” In the same way, the Church is the public face of the Kingdom of Heaven to our nation, the United States of America, and it is not fitting for us to act as though our ultimate loyalty is to our host country or to mingle loyalties to such an extent that they are indistinguishable.

When we go to worship, we enter holy space, space set apart to represent and honor our King and our true homeland. The symbols we use and activities that we participate in there should reflect that. We in the U.S. certainly give thanks that we have received a welcome and that we are free to conduct Heaven’s business herein, and we do our level best to maintain good, strong relations with our host country. We pray for that. But we do not imagine that we are here to be absorbed into our host and to become its representatives, to celebrate its patriotic customs in our sanctuaries as though that is part and parcel of why we exist as the Church.

Indeed, patriotic holidays provide one of those opportunities for Christian people to move out of the sanctuary and into our communities, to stand side by side with our neighbors, acknowledging blessings we share in common as Americans. Patriotism is not a specifically Christian duty. However, as fellow human beings, members of a common society and culture, we can honor our heritage and our freedom, have fun with our neighbors, sing patriotic songs and wave the flag, watch fireworks, and eat hot dogs and drink lemonade together. We celebrate common grace in common spaces with everyone who enjoys these gifts.

Then those of us who want to can go to church, focus our attention on Jesus, breathe the air of God’s Kingdom, and pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in this nation and in all nations as in heaven.”

Comments

  1. I’m with you 110% on this one, Mike.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    +1. It would be difficult to articulate this any clearer.

  3. Rick Ro. says:

    Brilliant piece. Church is about the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of America.

  4. Christiane says:

    A true story from a hundred years ago.
    German and British patriotism was extremely strong during WWI, but something unusual happened that first Christmas of the War . . . it is called ‘the Christmas Truce’ and there is much documentation which for some reason, many of us look at with longing from a place in the future . . . for us such a thing sounds miraculous, but it really did happen.

    If people are going to celebrate patriotism, they need to also celebrate the Peace of Christ which when expressed, can transcend all animosities. Take a look:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p05E_ohaQGk

  5. Excellent piece, Mike.

  6. Dan Crawford says:

    A church I once served would sing the doxology and append the last verse of My Country ‘Tis of Thee (as found in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal) – the verse is heretical, the sentiments of the song antithetical to the doxology. I ended the practice. Thank you for pointing out that the church is not the tool of the state. Sadly, for many of us in the Anglican tradition, that has been our heritage.

    • “last verse of My Country ‘Tis of Thee … the verse is heretical” Can you explain this? What is heretical about it?

  7. Robert F says:

    Agreed.

    Maybe there won’t be any fireworks after all, CM….

  8. This is excellent. Could not agree more.

  9. Faulty O-Ring says:

    I had to smile at the Romanian story. So, the Orthodox want us to think that their churches are not too bound up with national politics, do they…?

    • Trevin would have been in a Baptist congregation.

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        So the Baptists claim to be the Universal Church, do they…?

        • I think they claim, as do most Christians, to be PART of the universal church (small u and small c).

          • Though I should add, that some of them define that ‘universal church’ rather narrowly. 🙂

    • I suspect that this writer for The Gospel Coalition doing ministry work at a local church in Romania was not talking to or about an Orthodox pastor friend, but rather a pastor of a Protestant evangelical church. In fact, Trevin Wax was probably in Romania to help evangelize Orthodox Christians.

      • Christiane says:

        Orthodox Christians need evangelizing ?

        Trevin shares many writings and prayers from Orthodox and Catholic Christianity on his blog from time to time. He is a Baptist.

        • headless unicorn guy says:

          “Orthodox Christians need evangelizing ?”

          of course.
          evangelical protestants (and often only those of MY church) are the ONLY REAL christians(tm).
          altar call, sinners prayer, YEC, rapture, etc.
          all others are apostate false churches(tm), corrupted by constatine and SATAN immediately after the apostles and all was satanic darkness unil Our Founder Reverend Head Apostle revived the TRUE church.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            I always enjoy your over-the-top, hyper-exagerated commentary. This is neither.

        • Of course they do. Just ask any Baptist: http://www.roboam.com/BB_E_Orthodox_Manual.pdf

          • Christiane says:

            that document contains a lot of opinion from the perspective of Southern Baptists . . . and they have also been somewhat creative with ‘facts’, which I believe comes from a lack of real dialogue between Southern Baptists and the Orthodox . . . causing much misunderstanding . . .

            I’m trying not to judge the document as making false statements on purpose . . .

            From what I understand, Southern Baptists do NOT want any dialogue with the Catholic Church at this time. Likely, they are also not interested in any form of dialogue with the Metropolitans of the Eastern Orthodox Churches . . . I actually think that Southern Baptists have shied away from ‘dialogue’ with other faiths because they do not wish to participate in any sort of ecumenism;
            but one result is that when a document is produced like the one ERIC shared, you can see the ignorance, which is more to be pitied than condemned,
            and more to be prayed for than ignored.

            SB’s could do better if they dialogued in good faith with other religions or other branches of Christianity. Then, they wouldn’t be embarrassed by having produced a document that shows ignorance of their topic at some very basic levels.

          • I’m leery of anyone who does not know the difference between “tenets” and “tenants.” (See p.66 of the document.)

  10. Excellent use of the analogy of the embassy. But to carry your analogy a bit further, the problem with most evangelicals and mainliners is that they see the USA not as a foreign country to whom the Church is an ambassador, but as a colony of heaven itself, founded by God and in a special relationship with Him (like QEII and Canada, perhaps…?)

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Yes, we (as a nation) do seem to have a large number of people who seem to think the USA is Heaven on Earth, founded by God. Heck, the numbers of immigrants who come here would suggest large numbers of people OUTSIDE the USA view it as some sort of Garden of Eden, too, which only serves to further solidify the mindset.

    • Robert F says:

      “… the problem with most evangelicals and mainliners is that they see the USA not as a foreign country to whom the Church is an ambassador, but as a colony of heaven itself, founded by God and in a special relationship with Him… ”

      True statement, as long as you’re including most American Roman Catholic laity among the mainliners, since most of them, despite belonging a very international church, seem to consider themselves Americans first.

  11. Well said. Couldn’t agree more.

  12. Brianthedad says:

    Well said. I’ll have to wait and see how our service goes today. In the past it’s been very patriotic, but of late, the national holidays have not gotten much In the way of special treatment.

  13. Al Rider says:

    True story: Years ago when my sons were small, I served in Frankfort Germany as a civilian chaplain. My son attended international school and I was his Cub Scout den leader. His den included another Lutheran from Denmark, an Anglican whose parents were British & Swiss, an upper-caste Hindu from India, a Jewish boy from Israel, a Moslem from Algeria (who slipped me his Arabic prayer card every day!), and a United Methodist, also from the US like us. And I had to teach them duty to God and country…!

    We set up a display with all of their little flags, and let each one of them light a candle beside their flag at the beginning of every meeting. They loved it, took pride in their own heritage, learned to respect one another’s interesting differences, and became a little global community.

    If only the whole world had as much common sense as those first-graders did. And the global church, more than any other group, is equipped to show the way by being an example of grace and hospitality.

  14. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    All the way with you here. Having grown up under apartheid in SA, in a religious milieu that mixed nationalism and religion freely, I have come to abhor this. The church that aligns itself with the state becomes, not the states’ partner, but crassly put, its’ whore.

    • headless unicorn guy says:

      RL example: the russian ortodox church.
      fictional example: the faith of the seven in game of thrones.

  15. dumb ox says:

    I’m having difficulty finding imformation regarding the origin of this practice. At one time, I saw an article tracing it back to WW I, as a means for German Lutheran churches to show their true allegiance to American; however, I can’t site any reference to validate that.

    The following article traces it back to a memorial for fallen troops during WW II.

    http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacred-art-and-music/architecture-and-environment/display-of-flags-in-catholic-churches.cfm

    As a memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice performing military service, I don’t have a problem; however, as the same article suggests, such a memorial need not be in the sanctuary.

    I an age when every week yet another Tea Party talking head stirs up its minions with threats to overthrow the government, I question if patriotism is becoming passé. The new flag will be emblazed with Donald Trump’s hairdo.

  16. To go a little further, not only are we to act as though we are strangers in a host country, we should also refrain from becoming resentful of that host country by overly criticizing it for its faults and failings, realizing that they are without Christ and His Holy Spirit. We are to represent Christ and the Kingdom of God, and as Paul says in Rom 12:18 NASB – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

    • Agreed, but it is also part of our common duty under common grace in a free and democratic society to speak out and work for the common good.

    • Robert F says:

      It’s interesting how, in communications between early Church leaders and Roman rulers, the Church leaders sometimes went to great pains to stress that, despite being unable to make oaths and sacrifices to the Emperor, the Christian community was comprised of loyal citizens who supported the Empire in prayer (including for victory in the Empire’s wars), were productive, peaceable and law-abiding, and dutifully paid taxes (remember what some tax revenues were used for: pagan temples, gladiatorial arenas, brutal wars of aggression and conquest).

      I sometimes find this a little embarrassing (though by no means do I believe that we must follow the lead of the early Church in every matter, given their human imperfections and our different political context and understanding of the world), since I tend to think of the Church as in essence a subversive community in the midst of an evil world. The early Christians did not, for instance, wage culture war of any kind, not even a letter of protest to leaders, as far as I know, to outlaw the practice of infanticide, a prerogative of every pater familias in Roman society; instead, they quietly picked up abandoned infants from the roadsides they had been left on to perish, adopted them and cared for them to the best of their own ability.

      Our responsibilities as Christians living in democratic societies are different, of course, as CM points out in his comment above. But what a different mentality those early Christians had from our own, how different was their taken-for-granted world.

  17. Well said!! I was gratified that the comments supported your sentiments. I thought our parish handled it very well. The homily was about the physical symbols in our church. It ended with pointing out that the “Exit” signs were the most important because that’s where we carry Jesus’ message out to the world. We ended with “America the Beautiful.” I’m always struck by the last few lines in the second stanza: “America. America. God mend thine every flaw. / Comfirm thy soul in self-control. / Thy liberty in law.”

  18. An interesting sidebar to this is our nations struggle with the immigration political climate. How am I as a Christ-follower to allow God’s Word to help me to see other nationality people (individuals), that honors God and act graciously. To be wise and be able to understand beyond our media and political jargon. To live in the boundaries of our countries laws. Since God’s Word declares that once we were aliens and yet loved. What is reconciliation as any ( I, we) have experienced do we do this?

    • Rick Ro. says:

      There are laws of the nation vs. laws of the Kingdom. I can support immigration laws of the nation while also declaring that there should be NO immigration laws for the Kingdom of God. And just because I believe any and all should be accepted into the Kingdom of God doesn’t mean I need the same viewpoint in regards to the nation I live in. The US immigration issue is a tricky one, with slippery slopes on both sides of the argument.

      • headless unicorn guy says:

        “The US immigration issue is a tricky one, with slippery slopes on both sides of the argument.”

        and feelings running REAL high on both sides.
        jihad-level high.

  19. David Cornwell says:

    Thanks Mike, excellent piece. I’ve been visiting a country church just a couple of miles from my home. I like the people and the pastor a lot, plus its part of the community I live in. However I am quite sure they will celebrate our “independence” in ways I think run counter to the Kingdom. This in spite of the fact they are UCC! They fly the flag every Sunday. This is something most rural churches, other than Mennonite do, so I will need to find a way to deal with this.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      This might sound trite, but it’s not intended that way. One way to deal with it is to pray. I would lift any angst you have up to God, then seek His wisdom and counsel. I wonder if there’s a way for you to just engage folks on a friendly, non-confrontational level…perhaps just discussing your view of the Kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of America. Blessings!

      • David Cornwell says:

        Rick, thanks. I think are correct. I’m sure the pastor will be open to a conversation. I’ve found I can engage in almost any conversation, with anyone, if I approach it with respect and prayer. The pastor is a lay pastor, with some sort of local ordination (either Methodist or UCC) and was a UAW organizer for a long time. And through various circumstances I’m getting to know neighbors better (dog running off during fireworks display for one; runners on my road stopping to talk with me about giving my dog a home for the night, etc).

        The Slow Church idea and book has convinced me that I should be more a part of my local community, and a nearby church. Since I made that decision, its been uncanny how circumstances have made that a possibility. The importance of conversation takes up a large portion of the book, and the examples. This means one needs to learn to talk to everyone, even if there are profound disagreements in the beginning.

        So– you have exactly the right idea Rick.

  20. Ryan Mahoney says:

    Well said; nice piece. I actually taught my 4 year old son to refrain from saying the pledge at the being of Awana. I learned one of the leaders asked a friend of mine if our family had a problem with America . . . face-palm.

    • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

      Oh wow. I can imagine. Once during Wednesday night church they decided all of the children were going to pledge the flat. I had no idea this was going on until my son quietly slipped into adult Bible study and sat next to me. Apparently, when he was told he HAD to pledge the flag he just gathered up his things and left. It caused quite the bru-hah-hah.

      • Years ago I took my kids to Vacation Bible School, which is held at our church each summer. I stayed for a bit to listen to one of the leaders (my old friend Chuck, and a deacon) pump the kids up about the story of Daniel. “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold! And he told everybody that they had to pray to it when they heard the music! But Daniel refused to pray to it! Hooray! Even though they threatened to throw him in the fiery furnace! But Daniel prayed only to God! Hooray! And we’re going to learn more about Daniel and his friends, but first we’ll recite the pledge of allegiance! Ready? I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”

        Then they pledged allegiance to the Christian flag. Oh, well. My kids turned out all right.

      • Melissa, I don’t know how old your son is now, but with me at 75 I suspect he and I could be good friends today.

  21. Aidan Clevinger says:

    Love this Chaplain, thank you 🙂

  22. Happy to report – did our usual weekly prayers for national leaders (as part of the prayers of the people) added a collect before the offertory asking for humility and thankfulness and our organist played a fugue based off of the Star Spangled Banner – yea! Go liturgical church – even in SC. Apparently we were just named the most patriotic state in the US.

  23. Echoing many others, thank you so much, Chaplain. You were divinely inspired today, IMO. I

  24. Robert F says:

    Well, CM, I still haven’t seen the fireworks you promised two days ago. Then again, it will soon be getting dark, EST, so I’ll find myself a nice spot, set up a folding chair, tilt my head back and look to the skies in anticipation….

  25. Charity says:

    Interesting article. I appreciate your succinct writing, but I had to comment because I didn’t see anyone that disagreed with you. I guess I can’t speak for other churches who have a patriotic service around Independence Day, but I think you are making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill. Our church sang some patriotic songs today, with the image of the flag in the background on the screen, but we did not say the Pledge of Allegiance, we did not hold ourselves superior to other countries, we did not claim to be the only children of this world that God loves. In fact, we had an amazing musician visiting from Haiti, someone our church supports in his work with churches in Haiti. His piano playing is a true gift from God, and he happily sat at the piano and played America the Beautiful. For offertory, this dark-skinned man from Haiti played a duet with an elderly white grandma who used to give children piano lessons. They played the liveliest version of Battle Hymn of the Republic I have ever heard, and afterward they laughed and hugged, pressing their different colored faces together while seated at the piano. After the service, his wife cooked beans and rice and another Haitian dish for us, while strawberry pie and brownies were passed around for dessert. Point being, God made us. He made the people in my American church, and He placed us here for a reason. We love our church; we love our country. He made the Haitian man who worshipped with us today. He didn’t expect us not to celebrate our country during such a national holiday, nor did we turn down his wife’s loving gift of a Haitian meal just after we sang God Bless America. Loving your country and expressing that in church does not mean we are worshiping our country instead of the One who created us and placed us here. I love my country, and I love God, and our Haitian guest loves his country and the same God. Sometimes, it really is as simple as that.

    • I am glad you had a good experience in your church and with your Haitian friends, Charity. However, many times it is not really as simple as that. And church leaders are responsible to think and teach clearly and lead well in areas like this.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I don’t want to dump on a clearly well-intentioned service, but reading your post, there are some inherently problematic ideas running throughout:

      Our church sang some patriotic songs today, with the image of the flag in the background on the screen, but we did not say the Pledge of Allegiance, we did not hold ourselves superior to other countries, we did not claim to be the only children of this world that God loves.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “we did not hold ourselves superior to other countries.” How do you measure something like that? While I appreciate that your church service didn’t express any overt xenophobia, I always worry that services that are overtly patriotic are guilty of a well-intentioned form of idolatry, dividing time that should be spent exclusively in communal worship with affirmation of our country. Well-intentioned, but the focus is off-center.

      Loving your country and expressing that in church does not mean we are worshiping our country instead of the One who created us and placed us here.

      Like I wrote before, it read like the service took time that was supposed to be dedicated to drawing closer to God and becoming more aware of the gospel and handed some of it off to a holiday special. I have the same concern with a Christmas pageant during a service, or a long recap of the church budget as part of the sermon, or a Memorial Day service which honors veterans (and I’m a veteran myself). They are all well-intentioned and (occasionally) well-delivered elements to a service, but it is a distraction. To me, it feels like going on a date, but checking your Facebook wall every so often–not an inherently bad thing to do, but it’s done at an inappropriate time. There are plenty of ways to show support for your country without cheating God out of his worship time.

  26. Today’s message at my church, titled “Freedom by Adoption,” was based on Galatians 3.26-4.7, It was given by my co-pastor. It was not a patriotic message; neither the country nor Independence Day were mentioned once. But before the message we showed a short video titled, “One Nation Under God,” narrated by Ronald Reagan (you can preview it at http://www.sermonspice.com/product/55236/one-nation-under-god). And that was the extent of our “patriotic service.”

    FWIW, the video received a good deal of applause.

  27. tim VanHaitsma says:

    here is a related article that is from WW1 in the CRC church here in Holland Michigan. Good read and worth your time.
    http://www.swierenga.com/DisloyalDutch_pap.html

  28. Final Anonymous says:

    I’ve never been offended by a patriotic service in the churches I’ve attended.

    Somehow the message I got was we are lucky to live in the time and place we do, with the freedoms we have, look at the people in other places who do not have these freedoms, remember and respect those who fought to give us those freedoms, now how are we going to use them for the glory of God?

    Nothing political or overly patriotic, short of thanking our servicepeople.

    But CM, you may have to visit, because we do hang flags from every country around the sanctuary. definitely promotes the larger community of the church.

  29. So, what did you do with your Sunday?

  30. Thank you for this post. It was spot on. The last church we attended had a patriotic service also, and we never attended. The thing that surprised me perhaps most is that we weren’t the only ones. There was at least one other couple who didn’t, and I think even more. And this is in a very patriotic and politically conservative part of the country where the idea of American exceptionalism is rarely questioned.

    I do think there is more awareness now among those under 40 or so of the fact that mixing any other allegiance or kingdom with that of our Lord is at best odd and at worst much worse than that. My sense is that for the older crowd like myself, and especially people who lived through WWII, that realization is much more difficult to come by. Unless they grew up overseas as I did or had some other life experience outside of the American norm.

  31. Josh T. says:

    Thanks for putting the issue so well, CM. I love the embassy illustration (been saying it myself the past couple of years). I dislike attending our church on patriotic holidays for this very reason. In our church they DO say the pledge on those days, and sometimes have the flag presented on the platform. It just feels so, like an idol being set up in the sanctuary. This past Memorial Day the service started with “This is My Country,” which isn’t even a hymn, and I don’t think it had any reference to God at all.

    For the record, I like some patriotic hymns, and praying for our nation, leaders, veterans, etc. in that context can be a good thing. But the other stuff I mentioned above is just weird and inappropriate. Frankly, I have my doubts about whether as Christians we should be pledging allegiance to anyone other than Jesus, let alone doing it in church.

    Even my dad, who grew up Catholic, but isn’t currently a believer, understands that a Christian from China (or wherever) should feel comfortable visiting a church in the U.S. and not be bombarded with obtrusive displays of patriotism. When we were discussing it back in May, he agreed with the embassy analogy wholeheartedly.

  32. linda sherman says:

    Hi Chaplain Mike!
    Thank you for your article. I guess I haven’t really thought of this before. Just to say, while choosing the music for last Sunday’s service, the others on the worship team mentioned maybe we should do a couple of patriotic tunes. Now I do love my country, the American flag and all that. But, I gotta say, the first thing that came to mind, and out of my mouth was uuggg! Not that I don’t like these hymns don’t get me wrong. I was just in the mode of choosing what I felt really told of the love of Christ, what he did for ME! ME! That is something I cannot rap my mind around as yet! As our church prepares to celebrate 200 years of worshiping GOD and all the work he has accomplished. in this small but powerful church, and continues, I find that I don’t need to be patriotic but in awe of what has been still is and what will be. That God is Faithful! Can’t wait to see you this weekend to praise along with us!

  33. Marcus Johnson says:

    We had a great service on Matthew 11. Out of two services over the course of three hours, there was only one reference made to the holiday in a prayer. Everyone still left filled with the Word, and we were all still Americans at the end of the service.

  34. Our parish uses the 1928 American edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which has a special Collect, Epistle, and Gospel (i.e. “Propers”) for Independence Day. Usually, we move those readings to the closest Sunday and plan our service accordingly. This year, due to a clerical oversight, we did not do this. A few thoughts:

    1) The assigned Propers are REALLY neat. The collect thanks God for our liberties and asks him to give us the “grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace” through Christ. In lieu of an Epistle, we have Deuteronomy 10:17ff “For the Epistle,” which is the passage commanding justice for the vulnerable in society (i.e. the stranger, the fatherless, and widow), and provides theological reasons for such commands. The Gospel passages is Matthew 5:43ff from the Sermon on the Mount that tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

    2) Even with this clerical oversight with respect to the Propers, we sang as the recessional “America the Beautiful” which contained this lyric: “America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw, / Confirm thy soul in self-control / Thy liberty in law!” As we recessed to this, I teared up a bit at that part, thinking of how many flaws we do indeed need God to mend, and I despaired a bit for America’s metaphorical soul. How far are we from the ideals in those Propers and in those songs! Lord have mercy.

    • Robert F says:

      Fr. Isaac,
      Interesting aside on the Propers for Independence Day in the 1929 American Book of Common Prayer: 1929 was the first edition of the American Prayer Book to include such Propers. They had been intentionally excluded in the previous two American editions of the Prayer Book, the first one produced in 1790 by mostly Patriot churchmen, for the sake of avoiding re-opening the wounds of those Loyalists who had lost so much, families, careers, etc., in choosing the losing side in the Revolution.

      In fact, as the sermon we heard on Saturday evening in our home parish, given by our rector, who is the most recent in a lineage of rectors of a historic parish that was closely involved in Revolutionary history, pointed out, their action in refraining from including those Propers was a concrete example of loving their defeated enemies, as Christians are commended to do in Matthew 5:43. As our rector said in his sermon, we should remember that the American Revolution was not only a revolution, but a civil war, in which families and friends fought on opposite sides in the conflict, replete with all the bitterness and grievous pain unique to the aftermath of civil war.

  35. Kudos to your pastor then who still allows you to minister in his church even though you criticize his practices on this blog (and I don’t mean this sarcastically).

    John