This morning was See You at the Pole. I’ve participated in these once a year prayer gatherings for many years as a student, a youth pastor, and now a lead pastor.
These are good things. Prayer is always important. Waking up early and eating donuts and coffee is fun (well not really, ha except the coffee part!).
The gathering spot is always at the school flag pole, unless it rains right before and it is moved indoors. At this prayer meeting the stars and stripes becomes the central focus and the prayers of the people are centered around praying for our country. I get it. I do believe we should pray for our country and our leaders. But the whole thing gets off track when we think being a Christian is equated with being an American. I love being an American. I do enjoy our freedoms and I’m sure I take them for granted all the time.
But this freedom is not the same as our freedom in Christ. When we start comparing the blood of American soldiers with the blood of Jesus, we are entering really dangerous waters.
When I read the Gospels, Jesus teachings and sermons, and the letters from Paul, I don’t find anywhere that we should create national borders and pray for God’s blessings over against those of other nations and people who disagree with us. I can’t help but think about Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us.
This is not the prayer that I head this morning @ See you at the Pole.
I also can’t help but think about the prayer from Blind Bartimaeus who hears Jesus and shouts, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” After people rebuke him, he shouts even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus asks what he wants. The blind man says, “Rabbi, I want to see!”
“Go,” said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.” He receives his sight and followed Jesus. (Mark 10:47-52)
I used to worship America right along side Jesus. I loved singing patriotic songs in church. It was all very emotional. As I’ve gotten older and really studied the Gospels and as I have become a pastor, I continue to pray, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I have received new sight and I now can see that God isn’t contained in the American government and military system. Violence is not what our faith is about. Not at all!
God does love Americans…and Brazilians, and Koreans, and Syrians, and Christians, and Jews, and yes even Muslims. God loves the whole world. John 3:16
Honestly, I was pretty sad about the prayers I heard this morning. But this isn’t a post of condemnation. I used to pray the same things. This is a challenge for those of us in the American church to put our faith in Jesus Christ, and not the U.S. government. This is a reminder that Jesus is Lord and Caesar or the President is not. The United States will not be around forever. This is O.K. But the Kingdom of God will last forever.
“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a Sinner!”