given on Sunday, July 5, 2015
Fourth of July Weekend and everything is dressed up in red, white and blue. We cannot deny that our country is celebrating its heritage this weekend, but the heritage is not always easy to preserve or even to understand.
Our hymnal has several selections that reflect this country’s history, but each revision has challenged the validity of some hymns because they are too closely connected to the fighting mentality-or reality–that has insured the freedoms of American citizens.
George Washington’s quote speaks to the founding fathers basic premise concerning the laws of this land: “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” The Judeo-Christian principles that continue to hold this country together are challenged repeatedly, but the law continues working for the citizen.
This week once again challenges our basic American and our Christian foundations. The violence occurring in South Carolina has forced the long time discussion about a flag, the Confederate Flag. Whatever one’s opinion is about this historic flag, it must be remembered that a flag is a symbol.
In the midst of this current and repeated cultural debate, the Confederate flag is remembered as a symbol of a historical event that ended 150 years ago. The political significance in no longer relevant, but the emotional turmoil the flag generates conflict that many thought the country had settled with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Sadly, the emotions demonstrate that Christian principles are not being practiced even though the legal system has created the standards to end the conflict. In our system, we have three branches that are to keep each other in check.
The recent decisions of the Supreme Court have triggered other emotional reactions, but the Supreme Court considers the lower court decisions based on whether or not the decisions are aligned with the Constitution.
In the Bishop Robert Schnase’s open letter concerning the legality of gay marriage, he reminded us that the decision was a civil decision. A change on the United Methodist Church’s position will not be determined until after the next General Conference in 2016, if a decision can be reached.
Living the Christian lifestyle is our individual responsibility. Turning to the verses from Romans 13, Paul shares God’s expectations concerning life under any civil rule:
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. . . the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. . . . do what is right and they will honor you.
The new law from God makes life so simple—do no harm. Love one another, as you want to be loved.
The problems that have developed within this country could be eliminated if all sides had followed God’s law. The problems in Ferguson, the escaped inmates, the violence in Charleston, SC, the threats against women clergy now being made, and the senseless killings in our communities whether inner city, suburb, or rural county.
Christians must speak out for the lifestyle that does no harm. The statics may indicate that church attendance is decreasing, but the number of Christians is still large enough to make a difference in our world.
Look around the community. What can be done that will improve the quality of life? Does a small corner of this huge world need attention? Is there a person with a need that you or we could manage? How can we make a difference right here, right now?
Maybe a letter writing campaign (snail mail or email) taking a stand on an issue that challenges the Christian principles could make a difference. By working together, many voices can be heard better than one voice.
We are Christians first, Americans second. This weekend we celebrate our American heritage by honoring the “Stars and Stripes,” with family reunions, by eating ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. As long as we keep God’s law first, we can live under the civil government that our founding fathers created.
Washington’s quote reminds us just how important our Christian heritage is as we continue to celebrate our American heritage. The flag-waving of this holiday weekend is a symbolic action that can do no harm as long as we Christians are doing what is right. American Christians can wave the Christian flag, too, as it represents the very principles that established this country and continues to guide its culture changes over two centuries.
Prayers for our country
Thank you for providing one simple rule:
To love one another.
Thank you for sending your Son
To demonstrate how to live under your rule.
Thank you for Paul and the earliest disciples
Who had to learn how God’s law works under civil law.
For the citizens struggling to live in today’s world,
Open their hearts and minds with your word.
For the Christians maintaining their lifestyle,
Fill their hearts and souls with peace and joy.
For those who are filled with hate and anger,
Let them discover the healing power of love.
May we serve as your emissaries for lost souls;
May we find ways to heal emotional wounds;
And may we do no harm to one other. –Amen