Memorial Day 2009: Brief reflection on patriotism

This is the Call to Worship that I delivered at our church yesterday.

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On this Memorial Day weekend, I would like to speak a few words about patriotism, since this holiday and this word are closely entwined. In our era, especially in [our community], many are extremely uncomfortable with or even disdainful of patriotism, equating it with idolatry. But that is overreaction.

Rather, in speaking of patriotism, I would speak of loyalty and gratitude. Loyalty to an imperfect nation, to be sure, but one which is worthy still of loyalty and allegiance – but of course not as a substitute for our loyalty and allegiance to God.

Gratitude for the blessings of liberty, prosperity, individual opportunity and freedom to worship that our nation has stood for over its existence.

And it is the loyalty of the soldiers who have fallen in battle to protect our freedoms and the gratitude that we owe them for their sacrifices that evokes the patriotism of this Memorial Day holiday.

As Abraham Lincoln famously spoke at Gettysburg:

…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

As we reflect on these words, let us consider the patriotism towards a greater nation that these parting words of the Apostle Paul express, that these words may be ours also (found in II Timothy):

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

At this time then, let us take a moment of silence today to remember our fallen soldiers…and our fallen brethren in the faith.

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And I hope that we all will take time to honor our soldiers on duty to protect our liberty and the families of those who have fallen in battle.

(cross-posted at And Rightly So!)