The heavens declare the glory of God… (Psalm 19:1)
If the words star-spangled appear, the word banner is bound to follow. We might not be able to quickly define spangle as a small sparking object, but our mind’s eye can clearly see those stars upon the field of blue in our flag. We know what the star-spangled banner is, and we know what it stands for.
There is a reason why we salute our flag, and why our enemies burn it. It is more than a piece of colored cloth. It is a symbol of America. It is a declaration of America’s values and a reminder of America’s might. It stands for what America has done in the past, and a promise for the future.
There is a reason why our flag is called Old Glory. There is a reason why people stream to our shores. There is a reason why the flag is draped over the casket of those who defended it. The bumper sticker says, Freedom is not free. It is bought with blood.
For the Christian American, there is more to the story.
The Christian believes the words, “God shed his grace on thee…” The Christian understands that the strength of America lies not in its arsenal of weapons, but in the mercy of its God. The Christian recognizes that the bounty of America flows only from the goodwill of God. The liberty that Americans cherish begins with the freedom that the holy God has bought with the blood of his Son. It definitely was not free.
As we celebrate Independence Day, we surely do not want to declare freedom from our only source of life and blessing.
We want to remember who the Lord is, what he has done, and what his promise is for the future. We want to catch a glimpse of his greatness and glory. We want to be assured that our future is secure, and no enemy that threatens our eternal life can overcome us.
We want to lift up our eyes to God’s own star-spangled banner.
It is there for us. It is easy to see. It appears even more clear in darkness. The psalmist points us to it with the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
Just as the American flag in distant and dangerous places can lift our spirits, so can the sparkling lights of the sky wipe away gloom and doubt as they testify to the faithfulness of the Savior God and his promise for the future.
Old Glory may be spit on and burned. It may be lowered to half-mast. Maybe one day it may no longer wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. We pray this will never happen. We fight to prevent it. But we acknowledge that other great nations have fallen among the wrecks of time. We have no promise from heaven that our country will remain strong and free.
But here are the promises that do stand forever:
The strength that flows from the Lord God will never falter.
The freedom from sin, death, and the devil will never fail.
The glory of the redeemed will never fade.
We thank God for America as we see the stars and stripes fluttering in the wind. We thank God for salvation as we see the stars in the sky.
Both of these star-spangled banners lift up our hearts.
We pray: Lord of the nations and only hope for humankind, Our flag reminds us of the abundant blessings with which you have showered our nation. We pray that you keep it strong and guide its path. The celestial bodies that fill the sky and lighten the night remind us that your power is unlimited and your mercy unending. We pray that you keep us strong and guide our path. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military