Flag of Our Father

flags of our fathersWhen I was a kid, during the summer flag and firework season, my church would cover the cross above the altar with the stars and stripes.

After my father’s country and my mother’s country went to war… twice… I’ve come back to that image as I’ve wrestled through some questions:

Am I an American Christian, or a Christian who happens to be an American? Is there a difference?

Is my identity found in the the work of the Heavenly Father or the Founding Fathers?

Is my defining narrative the Apostle’s Creed or the Pledge of Allegiance?

How does “For God so loved the world,” square with “One nation under God?”

Do I bear the cross as a sign of reconciliation, or wave the flag as a sign of victory?

I’ve lived with these tensions over the last dozen years of ministry… while at the same time trying to avoid them. But from time to time, the wresting match finds me.

Most recently, I was invited to offer a prayer at our local National Day of Prayer event.

I was assigned to pray for “justice,” following the prayers for our nation’s elected officials and the military.

Here is what I prayed:

Heavenly Father,

You created all of humanity in your image, and breathed into us the breath of life. But we rebelled, and turned away, and our love failed. But your love has remained steadfast.

We confess that many times when we have spoken of justice, we really meant revenge. 

We confess that sometimes when we’ve talked about fairness, we were only thinking about punishment. 

We confess that what we sometimes call a blessing may have been built on the backs of injustice to others.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, you have given us an alternate story… one that looks beyond our limited ideas of justice to a call for Holiness.

By your Holy Spirit, and through your Holy Word, open the eyes of our hearts to see what Holiness looks like… to have a Holy love for you, a Holy love for others, and even a Holy love for ourselves.

And may that Holy love move us from a place of “social justice” to a place of “social holiness.” 

Where every person laid low is raised up. Where systems of greed become systems of giving. Where sweat shops become sanctuaries. Where prisoners are still people. Where the foreigner becomes family, the enemy becomes friend, and we are know more for our bread than our bombs. 

We look for that day to come when Jesus returns and you will wipe every tear from every eye.

When there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain… because of the victory won by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But until that day comes, may we not wait. Because you loved the world so much that you gave your only Son, may we live as Kingdom Citizens first on earth as it is in heaven… now.

In your mercy, hear our prayers… 

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.