Sunday, July 2, 2017
The Confused Church
When I turned on the radio this morning to a Christian station, the first song I heard announced, "I am proud to be called an American..." My first thought was, "What is that doing on here?" and then I remembered it is the 4th of July weekend. The church seems to have trouble with holiday weekends. Holidays like the 4th of July, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day seem to confuse the church and its leaders. Years ago when a pastor in a town ministry, my Episcopal priest friend always asked us in our weekly clergy gatherings on holiday weekends, "Are you going to preach the holiday, or Jesus?"
Now count me as patriotic as anyone. My father flew a B-29 bomber over Japan during World War II and then ten years later was killed in a peacetime air collision. Being patriotic is part of who I am. But, I wonder how all this 4th of July stuff fits inside the mission of the church. We do not gather to have a patriotic celebration, but to worship God. It often seems that this purpose gets put aside on the holiday weekends. Patriotic celebrations have their place, but our Sunday morning worship services do not seem to be the appropriate format. No matter what holiday the culture is celebrating, we gather to celebrate God in our midst and to worship Him.
Today was a day when many churches brought out the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag like we used to do daily in school, but it is not to the Flag or to America that we gather to pledge our allegiance. It seems that the church and its leaders are confused when it comes to this holiday as well as some others. To paraphrase Someone well known to us, "We should give to Uncle Sam what is his, but we should also give to God what is His." Uncle Sam is celebrated in secular patriotic gatherings. The presence of the God we worship is rightly celebrated in the Sanctuary when His people gather only for the purpose of worship.