|It's a Grand Old Flag!|
Traveling to Oregon on the 4th of July weekend, we stopped Sunday morning at Hank’s former church near Vancouver, Washington. We were in plenty of time for the service, but the doors were locked, the parking lot empty. Had services been cancelled?
No, out back on the green acres the church calls “Barefoot Park”, we saw cars and people, and a big white tent. A double row of American flags lined a winding drive, with safety-vested young people directing the cars filling the grassy “parking lot.”
We joined people streaming along a path lined with small American flags to a big tent filled with men, women, and children sporting the red, white and blue.There were 4th of July shirts, vests, ties, even hats. Ushers wore saucer-sized buttons striped in those colors. Old friends greeted us with enthusiasm.
The singing began, patriotic music we’ve sung and loved since grade school: America, My Country Tis of Thee, an acapella rendition of It’s a Grand Old Flag belted out with perfect timing by the ten-year-old granddaughter of our friends the Thompsons. Two elderly gentlemen in flag print shirts posted the flags. As they proceeded down the aisle, people spontaneously stood and placed their hands over their hearts. We repeated the salute together, then a soloist sang the national anthem in a clear, strong voice. Goose bumps!
A dramatic reading honored the branches of military service. As the choir sang the songs associated with each branch, audience members stood in honor of people serving or who did serve in army, navy, coast guard, marines, or air force.
After a heartfelt prayer for America, the pastor spoke about what the Christian’s response to government, whether government is good or less-than-ideal, should be.
According to I Timothy 2:1, 2, we should:
1. Recognize government as a divine institution
2. Give everyone what you owe them
3. Pray for government officials at least as much as we complain about them.
Afterward, the men set up tables, the women set out the food, and all the people stayed for a good old-fashioned 4th of July picnic. It made me think of the truth of the pastor’s introductory words that morning: "The most patriotic thing we can do is be the church."