Memorial Day 2009 Worship Service

It was a mostly normal Sunday morning.  My wife and I left for church wondering if it would happen.  It did.  The Pledge of Allegiance was said.  The National Anthem was sung.  Everyone stood.  We sat.  It was uncomfortable, I admit.

This was about two years ago.  I don’t even remember if it was Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day, etc.  These holidays tend to run together in appearance during Sunday worship service.

So where is our patriotism?  Wait!

Did you catch that?  Sunday worship service.  We gather Sunday morning to worship God and be fed by Him.  This discussion is nothing new to us.  My father-in-law served and retired after almost 30 years.  We’ve had some interesting discussions on this topic.  We love him and are thankful for his service.  Our objection to explicit patriotism during corporate worship comes from our desire to be Christocentric.  But can’t you worship God by thanking Him for this country?

Yes and No

Yes, we can certainly worship God by thanking Him for the blessings He has given us in this country.  Just as Christians in countries like China or Iraq can thank Him for the blessings He’s given them.  The most important blessing of them all is Jesus Christ.  Having peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ is a radical thing in countries like China and Iraq.  In the USA, you can find “Jesus” on billboards and bumper stickers.  Even our poor are “rich” in a sense.  We’ve been so blessed that we often don’t see it.  We start to worship the creation rather than the Creator.  This brings me to “no”.

No, we can’t thank God for what He’s done if our focus is not on God.  We don’t need 800 American flags up in front of the church building.  The Pledge of Allegiance during worship service is not an act of worship towards God.  It’s more like taking the bronze serpent that God graciously gave and worshiping it.  We sing “God Bless America” when we should be singing “God Forgive America”.  Based on what we’ve done with what God has given us we should be thankful He doesn’t remove many of His blessings!  Dr. John MacArthur offers a perspective on this in his sermon Can God Bless America? Even so, God in His continues to be gracious to us.  How should we react though?


There are much larger issues than patriotism overshadowing the worship service.  However, that is a different topic for a different time.  I want to graciously offer another perspective on the topic at hand.  I understand that not all churches are over taken by patriotism on certain U.S. holidays.  Though there are many.  I’ve seen them and sat through them.

I appreciate our Armed Forces.  It takes certain personalities, gifts and desires to serve in such capacities.  The same goes for our everyday public servants from police, fireman, EMTs, social workers, etc.  As Christians in those occupations, all have the responsibility to serve God through their work.  God should be praised for all of these types of work.  These non-military workers don’t get national holidays in their honor.  We have a bit of a cultural issue to deal with which is always tough.  Even for Christians.

Understand that …there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [Rom. 13:1-ESV]  We praise God for our government not the government itself.  We are to pray for …all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [1 Tim. 2:2-ESV]  And not just general prayers, but also for them …to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [1 Tim. 2:4-ESV]  We honor those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces by thanking God for them.  We thank God that He gave them the ability to perserver in the hard times of service.  Even the Apostle Paul counted his life as nothing as he boasted in the Lord.

I understand it’s not the actual people asking to be the center of focus in the worship service.  They are merely accepting recognition.  All I ask is that God be the One being recognized and the praises are sung to Him and about Him.  What separates our celebration from the world’s is Jesus Christ Who is the very reason we gather on His day.  Let’s not remove the focus from Jesus for certain holidays.  There are six other days of the week to celebrate U.S. holidays.

A Prayer

We should just have a regular worship service with a simple recognition, prayer (see above) and thankfulness towards God if we are to celebrate certain holidays during worship time.  I offer a prayer for Memorial Day.

Heavenly Father.  Oh great and wondrous God.  You have blessed us beyond measure with your Son Jesus Christ.  We thank you!  Thank you that you have put us in a country that we may worship and serve You freely.  Thank You for those You’ve used to keep those freedoms and establishments in place.  We praise You that You’ve done so in spite of ourselves.  I pray Father that you would bless Your sheep who are serving in military capacities around the world. I pray that they would be faithful servants and that their lives would reflect Christ for their world to see.  I ask that You would convict those unbelievers who are around Your sheep to bring them to repentance and faith. Please let us all be good stewards of the grace You’ve given us to live among the government You’ve put in place.  Help us to take the Gospel as we are going and living.  May those who have served in our military be a testimony of Your sovereign hand as they share with others what You have done for them.  For your sheep currently on active duty and their families, please give them comfort.  Help them focus on Christ as they live through tough times.  I pray their lives would be a testimony of faith and reliance on Jesus.  Help them in times when they must serve under ungodly leaders.  Strengthen their faith.  I pray that You would give wisdom to those in our government that they would make wise decisions for the country.  I ask that you would convict us Christians to live out the Gospel under these great freedoms You’ve given.  Help us all to be faithful.  I ask all of this in Jesus name.



P.S. Here is an older post with some good thoughts on this issue from Bro. Stan.

tagged as , , , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,politics,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 James Lancaster May 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm


Thanks for this post. I’m currently sitting here trying to put some last touches on the worship service for tomorrow morning. I was sitting here looking for videos to use as a vehicle for making everyone remember our country’s fallen. However, I was doing so with the wrong perspective. God directed me to your blog during one of my Google searches for Memorial Day videos, and I’m glad I took the time to read it. It was exactly the message I needed to “hear.”

2 Mark|HereIBlog May 23, 2009 at 11:33 pm


I’m glad the post was edifying and not insulting. What I said could be taken in the wrong way. Thank you for dropping by and commenting. I’m thankful the Lord could use this post to encourage someone to keep Him central. That’s really the heart of what I tried to communicate. I really appreciate the encouragement.

I pray you have a wonderful Lord’s Day.

3 Doug Graham May 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful blog.
I was chastised this morning by one of the worshippers who attended the worship service that I led this morning, because I didn’t focus on our country’s fallen soldiers.
Your words were comforting to me, as I reflected on that worshipper’s comments.

4 Mark|HereIBlog May 24, 2009 at 11:08 pm


I’m sorry to hear you were chastised this morning. It sounds like you put God first which I would say is biblical way. I don’t fully understand this mindset. I hope that as Christians we are always thanking God for all accomplishments in life both great and small. Freedom in this country via militarily or otherwise should be no different.

There have been times when I’ve thought that there might be the idea that just being a U.S. soldier was a pass to heaven. During patriotic holidays is when I’ve seen people get the most emotionally involved than any other time. I don’t mean everyone, but enough people so as not to go unnoticed. This is just sad.

I will report that we had a great worship service today. No patriotic songs. Only a nice recognition of veterans and those related to them as well as a prayer for them in the pastoral prayer.

I pray that this person was upset in passing and that it will cause no trouble for you.

5 Russ May 25, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Great post man. I agree completely.


Russ’s last blog post..Imago Dei

6 David May 26, 2009 at 3:10 pm

I do agree my brother. Christ should always the focus. It can be the tendency to mix patriotism and faith and that is wrong. The bibilcal principle of self sacrifice, denying one’s self for a greater cause can be discussed–the similarities–the idea of freedom……, but shouldn’t take away from Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

I think the reason why this “position” is treated differently is because death is such a risk and separation from family and friends is usually unique to a soldier.

And America has held a unique place in world history and the freedoms fought for have allowed many very positive things to occur over the last 300 years with respect to human rights and the spread of the Gospel. As Benjamin Franklin so aptly put it….without America and more importantly, God’s aid, the world would be much darker.
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.-Ben Franklin 1787


Previous post:

Next post: