E-pistle July 3

Red and Blue Worshipers? Red, White and Blue Worship?
 
A piece from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life this week raises what is sometimes a controversial question, “Should churches celebrate Independence Day?
 
The article presents its argument by comparing a church in Texas where, “Last year, Marines rappelled into the sanctuary, church members in uniform stuck rifles and helmets into a Styrofoam grave site made by a Broadway set designer, and indoor fireworks exploded over a packed house in back-to-back services.” The music director at the church describes it as “just a big patriotic, feel-good moment."
 
The contrasting view is found in a church in California where hardly any mention of the day is made because, “we want to be as inclusive as possible for all worshipers, whether they're red or blue.”
 
I would not choose to worship at either church.
 
Christian worship must always be focused on the majesty, awe, love and grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Simply put, it is not primarily about the worshipers being showered by fireworks or coddled in their own sense of nurturing exclusivity's.  But as we saw last week, our God can put on a fireworks show to beat anything you’ll see on the Fourth of July and he will embrace strongly and lovingly with his everlasting arms. 
 
So no Marines rappelling into the sanctuary – sorry, those of you with strong Red State sensibilities – but you will be asked to join in “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” – sorry those of you with Blue State inclinations. 
 
When we are called to worship by those wonderful and familiar words of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” we will remind ourselves that the nation spoken of by the psalmist is the nation of the chosen people, Israel, not the United States of America, but we will know that it is true for all nations that “a king is not saved by his great army,” and that “a war horse is a vain hope for victory.” We will know that humility befits a nation as much as it does a person.  When we sing, “America, America, God mend thine every flaw,” we will know that we have a real a need for God’s mending grace for the nation as much now as we did when the words were first penned in 1876.
 
Maybe needing to always feel good or our endless inclusivity are among the flaws that must be mended.
 
Oh, wear your red, white and blue.  Bring your red state and your blue state sensibilities.  But mostly come to worship, giving thanks for the gift of the nation, hearing witness to God’s work in the world, and eating at the great Banqueting Table.