The Flag and the Church
This past July 4th, I spent the day at Wrigley Field with my youngest son, Nate. The Cubs were playing the Detroit Tigers at 1:30 in the afternoon. We got to Wrigley at a little after 12pm. After walking around looking at things for a little bit Nate and I found our seats and sat down. It was a beautiful day, about 90 degrees with just enough clouds in the sky to make it bearable. Just prior to the game starting a couple was introduced to sing America the Beautiful and The National Anthem. By this time the seats are full and there are over 41,000 people occupying Wrigley Field. And for an eight-minute period everyone stopped doing what they were doing and stood to sing two songs and honor a flag that represents the ideals of America. They all did this of their own free will. To stand there and listen to forty plus thousand people sing along was pretty incredible. Even for someone, like me, who was raised on old glory, mom, apple pie and baseball chills still ran up and down my spine. I canít help it.
Yes, standing there with my son was a special day. Sitting there during the first inning I couldnít stop thinking of what we were celebrating on that day. Itís easy to find ones identity in our citizenship. It is easy to become worshipers of a flag or a country. Especially when you consider the price thatís been paid, so we can be free. But as Christians what do we do when considering the fact we are citizens of two different places. An earthly citizenship of the land where we live and a citizenship to a heavenly place.
What is true freedom and what does it mean for those of us, the expatriates of the Kingdom of Heaven to love and celebrate America, even with all her defects.
In the American context, freedom is the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness with the least amount of restraint imposed by others or by the government. Tyranny, in this context, is any external power that prevents the pursuit of our internal dreams and desires.
That is a world away from Christian freedom. When reading scripture you find that the worst tyranny imaginable is the pursuit of our own selfish internal desires and the greatest freedom comes from submitting our lives to an external power, God. This is how Jesus explained it, ďTruly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.Ē (John 8:34-36)
The sin that emanates from within us is the worst tyrant and the Son, the eternal force, is the liberator. Jesus Christ bought our freedom from the guilt and shame of sin and given us instead a Spirit empowered existence free from the slavery of sin. It is not meant to be an individual freedom to do with what we want, how and when we want. It is a freedom to live a life filled with joy under the loving guidance and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In John 18, Jesus stated that His kingdom is not of this world. He started his ministry by telling people that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He called His people away from darkness and into the light. In the clearest sense we are no longer citizens of two worlds but citizens of one world. Paul described our citizenship best in Ephesians 2, as ďa better country, that is, a heavenly one.Ē The writer of Hebrews calls us exiles, strangers and sojourners on the earth. So as believers we celebrate Independence Day every July 4th, remembering that while America may be the land in which we live, it is the land of our journey, not our home.
When you read the bible you realize that there have been culture wars since chapter 4 of Genesis. The church, Christians have done ourselves plenty of harm by trying to be equal citizens of the world and of heaven. The American system is designed to pit groups against each other. In our government this results in parties arguing and fighting and hopefully compromising for the common good. This is also referred to as the culture war. The church has a role to play in that arena.
Too often in our push to be culture warriors and be involved with the world, we have obscured the freedom that is available in the Gospel. Christ told his disciples that the world would know who they were and who they belonged to by the way they loved one another in John 13. When asked about the greatest commandment He told them love towards God and their neighbor was the greatest. Love should be the distinguishing and greatest mark of the Christian life.
The greatest act of love we can show our neighbors is to share the greatest freedom ever given in the life and death of Jesus Christ. It is not wrong to be involved in the culture war, but we canít allow that pursuit to lead us away from the mission of the kingdom. We must embrace the freedom that was won for us through Jesus Christ. We must love our neighbors, even the ones we donít like. We must love our families and raise our children to not only know the gospel but to live it on a daily basis. No matter what peopleís views of us might be it is our responsibility to actually show them the real Gospel by embodying it in our relationships. If people are unable to tell to whom you belong or who your savior is through your relationships then you are doing it wrong.
HOC Meal Report: 13 people from BLFC were involved in providing a meal for 64 guests. Our menu was chicken gravy over biscuits, green beans & bacon, baby carrots, garden fresh cucumbers & radishes, lettuce salad, mixed fruit cups, strawberry cake, scotcharoos or chocolate pudding, milk, tea & coffee. Thanks to our great volunteers: Chuck & Ann, Blake & Alicia, Barb, Bob & Veronica, Betty who provided food or funds; Vi, Diane, Tom, Jo and I who helped at the House. Our next meal responsibility is Friday, July 13. A change made to avoid conflicting with the Iowa Yearly Meeting Ministry Conference in Oskaloosa.
∑ July 13-19, 2018: Youth and Young Adult Board sponsored trip to Chicago July 13-19,
∑ August 1-3, 2018: Church Multiplication
Conference at Barclay College (Haviland, Kansas)
July 13-19: Youth and Young Adult
Board sponsored trip to Chicago
Aug 1-3: Church Multiplication
Conference at Barclay College
Sept 7-9: Family Camp @ CQH
Oct 5-7: Man Camp @ CQH
Oct 19-23: Pastor's Retreat
November 2-3: IAYM All Boards Retreat
Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends
Our Ministry Conference will kick off on Wednesday (7/25) with prayer and open worship at College Avenue Friends
Our evening worship service will take place at College Ave Friends at 6:30pm.
Thursday (7/26) will feature our board reports and General Meeting for Business
Friday (7/27) will highlight our annual memorial service in the morning, workshops in the afternoon and a recording service in the evening.
We wrap up on Saturday (7/28) with our annual Missions Banquet
Vacation Bible School
Our VBS Co-Directors this year are Dani Juncker, Alicia Daleske, and Mindy Hadley. We will share our VBS with New Providence Friends Church again this year. 2018 VBS dates:
The kick off well be held on Sunday, July 15 at the Union pool for a pool party and meal on the lawn. (in case of rain at the Clemons gym)
VBS will start on Monday, July 16 and be held through Friday, July 20th. Sunday, July 22-VBS children will perform some of their songs during worship. The monthly church potluck will follow worship (moved from the 3rd Sunday) so our VBS children and families can fellowship with us.
Times are:Kickoff-5:00-7:00pm (supper at 6:30pm)
VBS Times: July 16-20- 6:15-8:30pm
Supper will be provided each night of VBS
VBS Supplies: Please save your 1/2 liter plastic water bottles and caps for an Imagination Station project at VBS. We'll need 50-55. Also needed: 50+ ziploc bags of each pint, quart and gallon sized; a feather duster; 6, 16 oz. plastic water bottles & caps; a box of small glue dots; and bubble solution. A container will be available for your donations in the fellowship hall. Thanks for your help!
LIBRARY LEDGE Ė Fiction for the Summer
Come read some of our fiction books this summer. New to our library:
Velma Still Cooks in Leeway explores the struggles of a small town and the search for meaning, purpose & healing.
Grace at Bender Springs, Even through hardships, Godís grace flows down on Bender Springs.
Catbird Singing is an Amish Horse Series by an Iowa author.
In Happily Ever After, Mona transforms an old Victorian house into a bookstore and coffee shop.
The Landing Place, When Noahís Ark is discovered, rescuing it for the USA falls to Reg Danson. As he braved many obstacles and lost men, he questions the significance and impact of his mission.