quod pro nobis traditum est

Saturday, July 04, 2009

the 4th of July and the Lord's Day

Today we recognize and celebrate the United States of America. We are reminded that this day is more than cookouts and fireworks. This is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence made by the original thirteen colonies. There is much to revisit and to be thankful for over the last 233 years of this young country's existence.

When I was a new priest I realized soon the power of nationalism and its powerful pull even in the Church. One organist had so synthesized being a Christian with national patriotism that one could not distinguish who or what merited and/or received the most allegiance in his writings and musical tastes. When the 4th of July fell on Sunday patriotic songs were put in place of hymns and the National Anthem was put forth as pre-service music. What is a young priest to do? Fortunately, those days are past.

While one still hears of things like this happening here and there one can only hope that these are exceptions and not the rule.

Every Lord's Day the Church remembers the government and her nation's leaders in liturgical prayer. The liturgy is the place where we are given and receive a taste of the kingdom of heaven. Those who attend Mass on the 5th of July do not exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and those who celebrate the 4th of July do not guarantee the highest show of patriotism. Patriotism is not diminished among the faithful when the Lord's Day remains focused on the Lord. The sanctuary is no place for the flag. Understanding the 4th of July means understanding the meaning of the flag in its proper place. The 4th of July remains the 4th of July and Sundays belong to the Lord. So too, we commemorate and celebrate in the Church such feasts as that of Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Paul, and the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other dates that fell on the calendar during this past week.

There is a time and a place for everything . . .

1 comment:

Rev. Shane R. Cota, SSP said...

One year, when the 4th of July fell on a Sunday, I went to an LCMS congregation (very close to your own, Fr. May) and during the service we were supposed to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, American the Beautiful, the National Anthem and some other "patriotic" songs.

I was blown away by how glaringly inappropriate this seemed to me, but apparently not to the pastor there.

The Divine Service is Christ's Service. Or, as you put it the Lord's Day is the Lord's. This seems so simple, but I cannot believe how many Lutheran pastor do not understand this. In my first parish, a previous pastor always had them sing patriotic songs around national holidays like the 4th of July, Memorial Day and so forth.

One Memorial Day weekend, a parishioner asked me why we didn't sing any patriotic songs and I told him because it is the Second Sunday after Trinity (or whatever it was that year) and not "Memorial Day Sunday." The Divine Service is always and ever all about Jesus - not nations, politics, etc. that come and go.

Of course, as you mention, we always pray for the country and the leaders, but do not confuse Americanism with Christianity. I thought Lutherans knew how to distinguish the kingdoms. But this kind of thing may be more common than you think.

The fact that the Lord's Day is the Lord's is also another reason not to use the bizarre services the LCMS sends out for "LWML Sunday" and all that jazz.