Author Topic: The US Flag  (Read 14162 times)

RogerMartim

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The US Flag
« on: July 06, 2014, 10:24:12 PM »
Does it have an importance in a Lutheran's worship piety?

The church I attend (one that I was baptized, confirmed in, first commuion, etc.) planted 50 flags around its property in celebration of Independence Day which occurred two days before. I am sure that it is at the discretion of enthusiastic members of Men's Club. It's sort of like enthusiastic members of the Altar Guild who exert their influence on the chancel that often has an "overkill" flavor.

There was no other church in my city that made such an ostentatious display of patriotism. The service itself was OK with only mention of July 4 in the final hymn, Before You, Lord, We Bow, with lyrics by Francis Scott Key, which mentions the Crucified -- a Christological hymn. So that was OK with me.

Many, if not most, of our founding fathers of this country were Deists who paid homage to the god of the philosophers that St. Paul mentioned in his epistles.

My God is the God of the universe who sent his Son to save us. He is not the God of the good Ol' USA as so many think. God is the God of those who are in conflict in the midst of many trouble spots of the world: Nigeria, Honduras, the Middle East, and yes, even Tonga somewhere in the South Pacific.

To me, the US flag is the modern day golden calf.

Michael Slusser

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2014, 10:32:14 PM »
Last fall's discussion is relevant. It has a convenient poll, showing you are not alone.
http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=5197.0

Peace,
Michael
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Tim Schenks

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2014, 01:34:25 AM »
We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang God Bless Our Native Land after the Divine Service today, and we have a US Flag near the chancel, along with that Methodist Sunday School flag that was so popular over the years, but we've actually had people in our congregation speak out in favor of removing the flags.

I recall reading that the only reason the national flag was put in Missouri Synod churches was because of anti-German sentiments during World War I.  Strange thing considering the people we were at war with at the time were supposedly worshipping the same God. This is also why no one speaks German anymore in the Missouri Synod...my grandpa (born in 1931) didn't know a word of German but his parents were raised speaking it. Both of them went through Confirmation using German-language Kirchengesangbuchs. My great-grandma offered to teach me when I was a kid but I stupidly refused.

Back to the topic, we removed the flags from our nave about three years ago, moving them to the parish hall, but a woman who rarely attended church complained so much about it that they were put back. 

Rev. Spaceman

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2014, 06:09:36 PM »
We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang God Bless Our Native Land after the Divine Service today, and we have a US Flag near the chancel, along with that Methodist Sunday School flag that was so popular over the years, but we've actually had people in our congregation speak out in favor of removing the flags.

I recall reading that the only reason the national flag was put in Missouri Synod churches was because of anti-German sentiments during World War I.  Strange thing considering the people we were at war with at the time were supposedly worshipping the same God. This is also why no one speaks German anymore in the Missouri Synod...my grandpa (born in 1931) didn't know a word of German but his parents were raised speaking it. Both of them went through Confirmation using German-language Kirchengesangbuchs. My great-grandma offered to teach me when I was a kid but I stupidly refused.

Back to the topic, we removed the flags from our nave about three years ago, moving them to the parish hall, but a woman who rarely attended church complained so much about it that they were put back.

The transition from European languages such as German (and Norwegian, Swedish, etc.) to English happened fairly swiftly after US involvement in WWI.  This was partially due to anti-German sentiment in the US, but it also had to do with the fact that immigration after WWI pretty much ground to a halt.  In some places with a strong German heritage, the use of German persisted until quite late, perhaps the 40s and 50s, though English was used alongside it.

Yes, the practice of placing a US flag in the chancel was a way for German ethnic congregations (as well as Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, along with other folk) to demonstrate their loyalty to the US.  It became even more popular during WWII, and interestingly, advertisements from Augsburg Publishing House can be found in The Lutheran Herald (the publication of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America/Evangelical Lutheran Church) for churches to purchase a US flag to place in their sanctuaries.  No joke!  It seems that the purpose behind the placement of a flag evolved from something to demonstrate loyalty for their own protection to something to demonstrate support for the country more generally.

Personally, I'd prefer to not have a US flag in the sanctuary for reasons already stated.  But I also don't think it's the end of the world.  I think it can, along with the "Christian flag" of the International Sunday School Movement, be used to teach people about the place of civil authority.

Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Ph.D

Dave Benke

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2014, 07:47:57 PM »
We bring the flag into the sanctuary and recite the pledge of allegiance every July 4 weekend at my hacienda.  Songs and hymns are from the nation's independence day thematic as well as the Gospel/text for the day in the Church year.  "Come Unto Me" was pretty much tailor-made this year.  I recited the poem at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus - Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/the wretched refuse of your teeming shore/send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

For the last thirty-plus years, I've been preaching to a congregation at least 60% of whom are first generation immigrants, some very recently arrived, a changing dynamic flowing group of folks from Central and South America, the Caribbean and Asia.   Jesus says to them all, "Come Unto Me."  And indeed our nation said that to my forebears coming off the boats from the German principalities.  They read and understood the words of Emma Lazarus to be aimed directly at them, and they move purposefully to their farming communities and prospered.  We honored a couple of our graduates this year, one of whom, an 8th grader, was valedictorian of her class.  An immigrant from Guyana, she thanks her church for aligning her life spiritually and starting her education wonderfully in pre-school.  She got one of 60 spots of 14000 applicants for the freshman class in a special high school dealing with Pre-Med studies.  Her brother was valedictorian of his high school class last year.  Another immigrant young man, from Bangladesh, came to church Sunday on summer leave from medical school.  And another who graduated at the top of her class in a very competitive NYC high school and then from Cornell, is in Teach For America for two years to give back prior to entering medical school.  Another immigrant child made the NYC City-wide Jazz Band in middle school, and had three trombone solos at a concert at Carnegie Hall.  Our President is a first-generation immigrant from Barbados, our VP a first-generation immigrant from Trinidad, our Treasurer and Head Trustee are from Puerto Rico (commonwealth and citizens), our financial secretary is a first-generation immigrant from Guyana.  And oddly enough we have five immigrants from Milwaukee, all first generation New Yorkers.

I am very happy for the LC-MS involvement in Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the more so because my wife, Judy, now serves on the LIRS Board.  Lutheran Social Services of New York will be locating unaccompanied minors at various NYC sites in the next several years, and we hope to have one in the neighborhood of my parish. 

Dave Benke
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Donald_Kirchner

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2014, 08:08:26 PM »
Our hymns for yesterday were:

Opening Hymn  341  "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates"
Hymn of the Day  684  "Come unto Me, Ye Weary"
Closing Hymn  832  "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun"

We prayed the Prayer of the Church from Chaplain Weedon and his cohorts.

I didn't preach that the Statue of Liberty is Jesus.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it’s not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2014, 08:16:27 PM »
More than three decades ago I came across alternate words for "America the Beautiful" attributed to Pae Probst.  I have seached extensively and it appears that they are public domain.

Therefore, this was our Entrance Hymn yesterday:

   Still beautiful for spacious skies
      Still amber waves of grain;
   Still purple mountain majesties
      Above the fruitful plain;
   But Lord, our hearts no longer see
      Your scepter o’er our land,
   We followed men who promised ease
      And built on sinking sand.

   Yet Lord, in mercy, still you wait
       To hear our contrite call
   For only you can bless our land
      As we give you our all;
   Then help us to confess our sin
      And leave our wicked ways.
   To humbly seek your face in prayer
      And serve you all our days.

   O cleanse and sanctify this land,
      Your Name keep ever here;
   As we acknowledge you, our Lord
      In reverential fear.
   America, America,
      Seek God on bended knee
   “till Jesus Christ is lifted up
      From sea to shining sea.

   Our leaders, Father, need your light
      In mercy stretch your hand
   To guide us through the trackless night
      And save our periled land.
   America, America,
      May God your faith restore
   “till Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
      Are praised from shore to shore.

For the Prayers we used "Form VI" from the Book of Common Prayer, in part because this allows the listing of names for the hospitalized, those rejoicing, and those departed this life (we use this about six times each year) and because the opening petitions are well suited to the secular holiday:

In peace we pray  to you, Lord God.

For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends, and neighbors,
and for those who are alone.


For this community, the nation, and the world:
For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.

For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any  kind of need.
For those who minister to the sick,
the friendless, and the needy. 


For the peace and unity of the Church of God:
For all who proclaim the Gospel and all who seek the truth.....

Following the Peace we sang "God of our Fathers" as the holy table was prepared.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 08:27:35 PM by Rev. J. Thomas Shelley, STS »
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Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Dave Benke

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2014, 10:21:30 PM »
Our hymns for yesterday were:

Opening Hymn  341  "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates"
Hymn of the Day  684  "Come unto Me, Ye Weary"
Closing Hymn  832  "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun"

We prayed the Prayer of the Church from Chaplain Weedon and his cohorts.

I didn't preach that the Statue of Liberty is Jesus.

Nice.  What I did, and what nobody in the room misunderstood, was to connect the dots of the lives of the people from their sense that they should come to this country because of its freedoms and opportunities to the true call on their hearts that produces freedom of an eternal nature in Christ. 

Dave Benke
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Tim Schenks

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2014, 09:54:38 AM »


We prayed the Prayer of the Church from Chaplain Weedon and his cohorts.


Our pastor uses those too. I like them.

revklak

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2014, 06:51:32 PM »
The transition from European languages such as German (and Norwegian, Swedish, etc.) to English happened fairly swiftly after US involvement in WWI.  This was partially due to anti-German sentiment in the US, but it also had to do with the fact that immigration after WWI pretty much ground to a halt.  In some places with a strong German heritage, the use of German persisted until quite late, perhaps the 40s and 50s, though English was used alongside it.

The last Lutheran congregation I served as pastor would have even carried German on into the 70s, had not the young pastor just out of seminary they called in 1969 spoken German.  He didn't, so alas, the congregation no longer did.

Jim_Krauser

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2014, 03:00:07 AM »
I think it would be better not to have a national flag in the sanctuary simply as a witness to the catholicity of the church.  A national flag bespeaks a sectarian note.

I do not think the mere presence of the flag is idolatrous. Though given the manner in which it is regarded by many as sacred, certainly raises the issue of idolatry. 

I cannot fathom the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in a Christian worship service.  Listen to the words:  I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...  Pledge allegiance to a human object?  During Christian worship?  I find it problematic even outside of worship but how does that not pass the smell test under the first commandment?  Pledging allegiance to the republic, I think is defensible, but not to the flag.

In that context the flag is clearly an idol in a plain sense of the word, not very different from the statue of Ceasar that ancient Christians refused to offer incense to.  Yes, Ceasar was regarded as a god, but he (and his statue) was also a understood as embodiment of the "state."   

BTW, I'm not anti-patriotic or anti-flag; the flag proudly flies from the front of the parsonage. 
Jim Krauser

Pastor-Grace Evang. Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, NY

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2014, 08:18:47 AM »
I cannot fathom the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in a Christian worship service.

I hear you. Keep in mind, however, that Mr. Schenks said that they spoke the Pledge after the divine service and that President Benke said that they recited it at his house, not the House of the Lord. (Query...he carried the American flag into his bedroom?)
Don Kirchner

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Matt Hummel

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2014, 08:59:24 AM »
I think it would be better not to have a national flag in the sanctuary simply as a witness to the catholicity of the church.  A national flag bespeaks a sectarian note.

I do not think the mere presence of the flag is idolatrous. Though given the manner in which it is regarded by many as sacred, certainly raises the issue of idolatry. 

I cannot fathom the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in a Christian worship service.  Listen to the words:  I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...  Pledge allegiance to a human object?  During Christian worship?  I find it problematic even outside of worship but how does that not pass the smell test under the first commandment?  Pledging allegiance to the republic, I think is defensible, but not to the flag.

In that context the flag is clearly an idol in a plain sense of the word, not very different from the statue of Ceasar that ancient Christians refused to offer incense to.  Yes, Ceasar was regarded as a god, but he (and his statue) was also a understood as embodiment of the "state."   

BTW, I'm not anti-patriotic or anti-flag; the flag proudly flies from the front of the parsonage.

It always scares me a little, James, when we are in complete agreement.  Well said.
Matt Hummel


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peter_speckhard

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2014, 10:58:03 AM »
I removed the flag from the chancel of my last congregation but do not necessarily consider it wrong to have the flag. We might have the flag as a symbol that we are located by God in time and place and that we, like the Jews in Babylon, pray for the peace and prosperity of our context.

What if someone objected that praying for the president or governor by name in church bespeaks a sectarian note against the catholicity of the church? After all, if we're going to pray for our governor, shouldn't we pray for all 50 governors by name? If we're going to pray for President Obama by name, shouldn't we pray for every world leader by name? Otherwise, do we sound as though we only care about or guy? I don't think so. I don't think the flag in the chancel is necessarily bad for the simple reason that if I went to church in Canada and there was a Canadian flag in the chancel I would not be offended or feel somehow excluded.

But on balance I think the flag detracts from rather than adds to the decor in the chancel, which is why I removed it. But it is really a matter of emphasis and flavor rather than doctrine.

Dan Fienen

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Re: The US Flag
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2014, 12:41:41 PM »
In the early '70s when I was a student at Concordia Lutheran Junior College, Ann Arbor, Michigan, there was both the United States and Canadian flags (as well as the Christian flag)in the chapel chancel.  We were close enough to Canada that we had a number of Canadian students.  (As I recall they were even persuaded to make malt vinegar available in the cafeteria for French fries.)

We do hold a two kingdom doctrine, that God is not only active in the sacred but also is whether acknowledged or not the foundation for the secular realm and secular state.  Our people also live in the secular world as well as the sacred of the church.  I find patriot holidays a good time to comment on our dual citizenship.  We should never pretend that the secular government and nation in which we live and of which we are a part is perfect or holds our highest loyalty, but part of our service to God includes being good citizens of the U. S. A.  And God has things to say concerning our citizenship here.  To ignore our life as Americans is to ignore a big chunk of our lives.  Do we as a Christian church really want to pretend that is not important?

Dan
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