For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10
July 4th is always so great! Fireworks, parades, the celebration of freedom, family, hamburgers, hot-dogs, tater-tots, baked-bean casserole, corn on the cob and big red tomatoes (direct from Larry’s garden), ice-cream and fresh peaches…
“Wait a minute,” Rebekah said when I announced the menu; “that was three starches in a row.” “You bet!” I responded. “This is America! I didn’t take those citizenship classes for nothing!”
Another thing I learned – along with the importance of serving cholesterol on important holidays – was that Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day are all unique and distinct observances. I believe it’s a distinction worth thinking about because – especially over the past few years – I’ve started to notice a kind of one-size-fits-all homogenization that has had the unfortunate effect of taking away from what makes each day important.
So far as I understand – and please correct me if I’m wrong – this is what they all mean:
- Memorial Day: We remember the sacrifice of all those who have given their lives in the service of this country. Originally conceived as Decoration Day, the observance honors those who died while in military service.
- Independence Day: We celebrate the fact of liberty, and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of this “Great Experiment” in 1776. This was a civilian action, not a military operation, an act of defiance and courage and resolve by elected members of the Continental Congress.
- Veterans Day: This holiday honors men and women who have served in the armed forces. This is about recognition, and about the fact that – even though they are not in uniform any more – their service still cost something (and still costs something). Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day.
When all three observances begin to look and sound alike, we diminish what is special and instructive about each individual day.
NATIONALISM: This can be especially unfortunate when people use all three occasions as an excuse to give the flag center stage in church services. Such demonstrations are – to my mind – evidence of a shift away from the humble worship of God and towards a kind of Christianized nationalism. Nationalism is its own religion, with a holy trinity comprised of God, the military, and the American flag.
IT’S GOD WE WORSHIP! Today it is Sunday, and millions of Americans will make their way to church to worship God. We will be full with gratitude for this amazing nation, for the liberty we enjoy, for the creative and courageous citizens who framed the idea of the USA, declaring independence and drafting a constitution, and for the brave men and women who have consistently put on a uniform and given their very lives to defend this freedom. But we will be there to worship God alone: the author of life; the Lord of all; the sustainer of creation; the one who sent Jesus to offer each one of us the opportunity to live in light and love and grace; our refuge; the only source of real meaning in the present, and the only source of sustainable hope for the future.
In Ephesians, the apostle Paul explained our situation like this: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:8-10
Grateful, and free – DEREK