Friday, May 27, 2016

Should We Fly Flags in the Sanctuary on National Holidays?

This weekend is Memorial Day and a lot of churches will be having special Patriotic services to honor our men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. National holidays always bring up an interesting angst/question in my soul.

Is it OK to fly our National flag in the Sanctuary on special occasions?
Does honoring America take away from the Kingdom of God?
What will Internationals think when they visit our church & see an American flag?
Is it wrong to honor our country?

Lest you think I am the only one who struggles with these questions; let me assure you I am not. The other day I attended a Pastor's lunch and learn with other Pastors in our Association and the question about flying flags in the Sanctuary on special holidays came up and led to a great conversation with a lot of helpful insight.

Before I attempt to answer the question for myself allow me to give you some background which shapes my worldview. I grew up an Air Force brat. My dad proudly served in the Air Force a number of years before retiring. My brother is serving in our Armed Forces and has served overseas. I grew up going to air shows and honoring our military. I have also visited nine different countries and lived overseas in Ghana, Africa for two years. Both of these perspectives have tainted my worldview and obviously affected the answer to this question.

So what's my answer:

I believe it is OK and even encourage the flying of flags/honoring of  our military in the Sanctuary on National Holidays and specials services. (To be honest: I think we should acknowledge our men and women in uniform any time they visit our church in uniform).

I believe it is OK and even encourage the flying of flags/honoring of our military in the Sanctuary on National Holidays for four reasons.

1) Memorial Day, 4th of July and Veterans Day represent three Sundays out of the year. Three Sundays!?!?!?! In the whole scheme of things that is not a lot of time taken out of the church calendar to honor those who have served, our serving and who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in America with our freedoms. We owe our myriad of freedoms in this country to our men and women in uniform and we should remember them and thank them.

2) Soldiers serve 24/7, 365 days out of the year to protect us. They serve in the cold, heat, rain, snow, sleet, hail, sun, blistering humidity, etc. They encounter situations which I can not even imagine. They serve with very little pay and very little thanks. The least we can do as a church is pause for 2 maybe 3 Sundays out of the year and say thank you.

3) We live in the greatest country on the planet. There is a reason everyone overseas wants to move to America and that is because of the greatness of our country. Other countries are good but America is great! We are the greatest country in the world because we have the greatest military in the world and we should be remembering them and thanking them for their service.

4) I am often reminded of the stories I have heard about war and the price men and women have paid. The rest of us do not have to bear the costs those men paid because they volunteered to pay them on our behalf. Every day they went to work knowing the risks.

In the military, such sacrifice is so common that at times it almost ceases to seem extraordinary. But it has echoes and glimmers of what is most incredible in Christian faith: that one would willingly lay down his life for his friends. Greater love has none than this, and even the extreme pacifist doesn't scorn it. This is one of the reasons why our flag is not out of place in a church.

This holiday may I encourage you to fly flags in the Sanctuary, turn up the Toby Keith, sing it loud and proud that you're proud to be an American and remember/honor the men and women who have sacrificed and are sacrificing that you and I may enjoy the freedoms we have and the privilege to live in the greatest country in the world!
Our soldiers not a politician make America great!

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