STARS & STRIPES OR TONGUES OF FIRE?

American Flag - Christian Flag Like it or not let’s face it, worship engenders a certain political allegiance among worshipers. Before we
go much further let’s consider what kind of politic we are speaking of here. The republican vs democrat, red state vs blue state, conservative vs. liberal media saturation in our country leads us to assume that any talk of political allegiance has to do with the state. In biblical terms, it is as though the struggle of rendering unto Ceasar vs. rendering unto God all falls on the side of rendering unto Ceasar, making it a question of which Ceasar will earn our allegiance. In truth worship of the living God is surely to remind us of our first and highest allegiance to the Triune God from Whom all blessings flow, through Whom the only provision for salvation is made, and upon Whom the hope of the world rests. Where we as disciples have lost our way in our proneness to wonder Christian worship repositions us. As we pray for those who have authority over us (1 Timothy 2) we are reminded that God is ultimate authority. As we sing songs that embrace God’s reign in the good times or bad we are testifying to faith that may assist us to “be still in times of storm,” or to triumphantly “rejoice! the Lord is King!” no matter the circumstances. Worship singing holds rich potential as a primary means of declaring our allegiance as citizens of the Kingdom of God as first priority. Furthermore it provides an effective avenue for shaping our sensibilities to the characteristics of God’s activities in the world, and can help form our thoughts in relation to all that is happening around us. A proper perspective should result from our worship in which we love God with all our being, and love neighbor as self.

I am writing on this tension of Ceasar-rendering vs God-rendering in response to the tendency I note for so many churches to ignore an important observance in the Christian year. Of course, most of the same churches pay little attention to any of the Christian calendar save Christmas and Easter, but that is a variation on the same theme. Coming in to this past holiday weekend I reviewed a sampling of websites for evangelical churches, mostly Southern Baptist, who consider their worship to serve as exemplary of the overall ministry and mission of their church. I was interested in the emphasis for last Sunday’s worship, given the conflict of calendars, national and Christian. More than half of these sites indicated that last Sunday’s worship emphasis would be a memorial remembrance in one dimension or another; some remembering those among their church body who had passed away during the course of the past year, and many churches recognizing fallen American soldiers who died in the line of duty serving their country. Other sites indicated they would place an emphasis on recognizing graduating seniors, and still others gave no indication of any special emphasis other than a sermon series or other regular progression in the church. With few exceptions, by reviewing promotional emphasis for last Sunday you would never know that it was Pentecost Sunday, a special day in the Christian year that celebrates the visitation of the Holy Spirit on that gathered group of Jesus followers as recorded in Acts 2. Its significance to individual believers and to the Church cannot be overstated. The ignorance (ignoring) of that significance surely says something to and about the state of the evangelical church as well.

The book of Joshua instructs us to choose whom we will serve, and the prophet goes on to declare, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Many of us learned this verse as a child and have found it to be a familiar friend guiding our steps into our adulthood, especially as spouses and parents. Prioritizing allegiance to Christ and His Church does not exclude us from honoring those who have served country even through sacrificing their life, nor certainly would it exclude us from pausing to rehearse the names of those who have transferred residency from this earth to be “present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) To the contrary, the latter serves as a reminder of our permanent home, our ultimate citizenship, and a reason for our participation in missio Dei, as we participate in forming the community of faith in testimony as the Bride of Christ. It is within consideration of these very things; declaring allegiance of “our house,” subordination of all service to the highest calling which is as child of God in His Kingdom, recognition of our eternal destiny, and our engagement in that larger mission of bringing God’s Kingdom to be “on earth as it is in heaven,” that we evidence our participation as worshipers.

An important aspect of leading others in worship surely includes drawing attention to significant events in the God story. Could it be that a bolder calling of disciples to faithful observance of all time as Christian time might help re-establish our pews as preferred means of forming genuine Christian spirituality? Might we better establish a worshipping Church seeking to be empowered by the Spirit if we more readily confess our helpless state that results when we act apart from that Spirit? In music and word is it clear that worship is on God’s terms and by His provision alone?

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

2 Comments on “STARS & STRIPES OR TONGUES OF FIRE?”

  1. Derek Lane Says:

    Two Sundays ago, I planned to sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” for our pre-Sunday School praise song. The words of the first verse hit me hard, and I took some time, both in choir practice and before the congregation, to ask everyone to meditate on why we need to ask “the Fount” to come and “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” We’re out of tune, spiritually, in our hearts. We’re prone to wander. I think some of us were renewed by that song, and so I sang it again last Sunday. I won’t use it every Sunday, of course, but those lyrics teach some really good theology, and I plan to use it more often.


    • You just summed up the emphasis of my first chapter in my book, Derek. Bless you as you lead your people to understand our joyful dependency on the Fount of grace to tune our hearts to sing His grace. You did my heart good to think of you before your people calling them to mean this great hymn together.


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