I’m leading worship in church this weekend, for better or for worse. I did take seven years of voice lessons and have been singing in choirs since I was in third grade so, I’m qualified ….I suppose, but still. I’m nervous.
I was given close to free reign on song selection, but keep in mind our church is fairly traditional and mostly sticks to hymns. We also don’t have a praise team and are only newly starting to have someone lead singing from the stage. So I don’t want to mix things up too much or get too complicated, it’s no fun leading worship when no one can sing along.
So, after some googling and reflection I picked out some familiar hymns that I hope will draw all ages into worship and decided to be brave and teach the congregation a new song that we can hopefully come back to in the coming weeks, “All the poor and powerless.” Total favorite of mine.
When I sent off my list of ideas, Kel wrote me back and said “Looks great, but hey don’t forget, it’s Fourth of July weekend. We need some of worship to be Patriotic.”
That’s when things got confusing for me, because it’s not always easy for me to jive with how the church talks about patriotism and politics.
It tends to make me really uncomfortable and I don’t think I’m the only one, right?
There are ways to do it really well and then there are ways to mess it up and confuse people by grossly misrepresenting God in our political views by claiming that it’s what Jesus would do.
When it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
This year I find it especially hard to sing “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” because our country doesn’t seem so beautiful to me right now.
When I turn on the news, I see a lot of hate. The kind of hate I don’t want to talk to my kids about yet, because they are still in that phase of loving people, all people, no matter what.
I don’t want to point out the differences they’re not keying in to yet.
It’s not that I want to take the easy way out, I’m ready to have the hard conversations.
But anyway, back to the question at hand: How do we as the church, walk up to our pulpits and microphones and stages and talk about God and America this weekend?
Maybe your church doesn’t center the service around the holiday, but during prayer if it comes up…. we can’t sweep all the hate and division under the rug.
And how do we ask God to Bless us? I mean, we are so wealthy, we steal resources from other parts of the world, we are blessed. Most of us have fridges full of food and extra money to go buy fireworks that we can light up and shoot into the sky and then toss into the trash can the next day.
I feel blessed.
Blessed and confused.
I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I came up with.
We’re going to sing “God Bless America”… because it will be very meaningful for our congregation full of veterans and families who have lost real people to war.
And because by Bless, I think we mean align our hearts with that of Jesus. At least that’s how I am going to sing it…. when we sing the words Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.
Because division and hate is a very black night that we simply have to move past.
And then we’re going to sing “This is my Father’s World”
This is my father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass
He speaks to me everywhere
This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet
Because I need to hear that this weekend… I need to believe that this weekend.
And in the end I decided to talk to my six year old Noelle about the shootings in South Carolina, to show her a few video clips and tell her what she thought about the idea that some people think white people are better than black people, that God loves white people more.
She said she thought that was sad and wrong, then she said this, which I think is the best advice we can take going up to talk about our country this weekend in church:
“I hope that those people don’t teach their kids about that… and if they do that those kids don’t believe it and do something different.”
Yes my love, me too.
What about you? How is your heart processing this holiday in light of all the turmoil in our country?
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