‘God Bless America’

By Mark A. Taylor

More than a decade ago, my congregation hosted a patriotic pageant each year called “Sea to Shining Sea.” We had a huge adult choir, a children’s choir, a live orchestra, actors, and dancers. We welcomed color guards from all the armed services. We sang every patriotic song you know, including one that invited veterans from every branch of the service to stand and receive the cheers of the crowd.

Fireworks accompanied the songs, and after the last note, everyone sat with necks craned to the sky and enjoyed 20 minutes of the rockets’ red glare.

Our mission was to get our church’s name before the community, to honor veterans, and to remind our neighbors of the God-honoring principles at our country’s founding.

We hosted the event in a local football stadium, and had no way to guarantee a couple hundred volunteers would be available for a rain date, so we didn’t have one. I remember one year when storm clouds threatened and showers fell on communities all around our site. We prayed fervently for a dry evening, and not one drop fell on our production that day. It seemed sure that God was blessing our event.

I have many warm memories of the church calling on a variety of talents and gifts to make the production possible. Our people built sets and worked sound equipment and mounted lights and directed traffic and prepared refreshments—all for God.

I was sad when the pageant stopped, and I would eagerly support such a project again. On a Friday or Saturday night. In a neutral location. As a means of outreach and community service. Because our veterans deserve to be honored.

But I can’t forget what one reader said to me after Christian Standard published a critique of nationalism a few years ago. “Honoring veterans and singing patriotic songs are all good things,” he said. “But they do nothing to prepare us to receive the Lord’s Supper.” Red, white, and blue blowouts belong in stadiums and parks, not Sunday-morning worship.

Every American patriot can feel a swell of pride and gratitude as we celebrate Independence Day this weekend. We have so many good reasons to love our homeland.

And every American Christian can pray, “God bless America” with fervor and fear. We have so many valid concerns about our country to bring before God in prayer. Let’s be glad when those prayers echo from our pulpits this weekend.

But let’s remember that in God’s eyes, America is only one in a host of nations whose people he loves and wants to save. We may love our country. But our worship is reserved for God alone.

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6 Comments

  1. July 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Thank you, Mark. I pray churches across the globe honor Christ and His Kingdom this weekend. We are joined with those from every tongue and tribe and nation as citizens of heaven. Our worship ought to reflect this reality as if we really believed it — rather than our adoration of a political party or national identity. One’s truest allegiance and deepest loyalty is certainly exposed based on how they respond to this issue.

  2. July 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

    We are celebrating the freedom as Americans and celebrating freedom in Christ. It is His Love, His Grace, and His peace that sustains us every day of the year. A great reason we are celebrating this year is a family in Kiev bringing a little boy with Down Syndrome home and adopting him because his country labels him as undesirable. Read their remarkable story at http://buildingourvillage.blogspot.com/2011/06/god-is-good-all-time.html

    After reading it, I know the USA is the great land on this planet . . . I also am reminded what a honor it is to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom through Jesus and a greater land is yet to come!

  3. Bob Willson
    July 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Wow Mark. Was it a decade ago? I remember it well. Let’s do it again!! Have a happy 4th.

  4. Don Gergely
    July 3, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Amen. I totally agree. Thank you for saying this!

  5. Bob
    July 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you Mark. I agree with you 100%.

  6. July 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Thank you Mark, I agree completely that we need to demonstrate our allegiance to our country. Our patriotism is for our freedom and way of life in a free country; our worship is reserved only for our Creator God. It is only by God’s provision for us that we remain a free people.

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