Thursday, June 1, 2017
What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:12-22(NLT)
The closer we get to July the more anxious I get each year. It’s not just because my birthday falls at the end of June, and I’ll mark another trip around the sun; mostly it’s because we always have that Independence Day thing to deal with. That thing is the tension between being loyal to the privileged land of which I am a citizen, and being thankful for the country through which this citizen makes his pilgrimage.
There…I’ve done it again…said something in preacher-code. You know what that means; when a preacher gets near the sacred cow he’s got to talk in non-threatening, low tones, using words that leave some wiggle-room in case it offends anyone. In the case of the birthday of America, those low tones must include a bow towards patriotism.
Tension for the preacher on Independence Day when it comes to doing the obligatory patriotic flag-waving is found in what every Jewish child remembers when he reads Psalm 33 or any of the countless Scriptures calling for trust in the Lord; the land in which you live is nothing; God is the only shield of protection for any people. You can stamp In God We Trust on all the currency you can imagine, but if your trust is really in your system of government, a strong economy, the president you elected, or military power, you’re headed for trouble.
Historically one of the reasons Americans took note of what a Presidential hopeful’s spiritual life looked like is because governing is all about making choices. And electorates always wanted assurance that the person sitting in the most powerful seat on planet earth was driven from within by a commitment to make moral, God-honoring choices, more than just pragmatic, economic advantage or power brokering choices. All the framers of the Constitution may not have been Evangelical 5-point Calvinists, Congregationalist or Wesleyan, but they didn’t squirm when God was invoked.
A Christian is a citizen of Heaven, so this coming Independence Day when you salute the flag and sing God Bless America, remember, you’re an alien here!