Face the American flag.
Put your right hand over your heart.
Please join me in saying the Pledge of Allegiance:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
Please be seated.
A pledge is a binding promise usually made in some public forum.
It is an agreement to do something, to act is a certain way, to follow a certain path.
In this case it is allegiance that is pledged….loyalty.
As citizens of this country we promise to fulfill certain obligations,
devote ourselves to upholding and living according to certain standards,
to remain faithful to what the country behind this flag represents.
Is anyone offended by what I just did…what we just did together…here in church?
Did I cross some boundary between Church and State?
Do you feel that I have misused my authority
and forced you to do and say something that violates you conscience?
Maybe you want to stage a protest.
This past March a 1st grade student in a public school
remained seated and refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance with his classmates.
The student was removed from the classroom
and sent to the principal’s office.
When asked why he didn’t stand up
the boy stated “he was doing it to protest the government of the United States,
as it was racist, greedy and does not care about people.”
(Now where does a 6 year old come up with such information, with such a mindset?)
Low and behold, the mother of this student
has filed a law suit against the school for compensatory and punitive damages.
Not to belabor the point,
but within the government of the United States,
there are some office holders, politicians, employees,
people who hold positions of responsibility and authority,
who are racists, greedy and unconcerned about others.
When we say the Pledge of Allegiance
we aren’t agreeing with them or condoning their immoral attitudes.
We are instead orienting our pursuits toward the ideal,
toward the highest of principles that underlie the founding of this country.
Our desire is to conform ourselves
to a true representation of independence and freedom and justice for all.
Some people who are elected or are hired to serve in our governing system
misrepresent the ideal of citizenship;
they fail to live up to what it means to be a good citizen,
an informed citizen,
a fair citizen,
a citizen to be emulated.
The mother of the 1st grader mentioned above
could have impressed this upon her child…
pointed out that some people don’t have a clear understanding
of what is good and what is evil….
told him what good citizenship entails….
helped him to see how racism and greed and a lack of concern
can be confronted and overcome….
challenged him and encouraged him
to be part of the change for the good that needs to happen.
What do many of us say as we encounter what we dislike,
when we encounter systematic failure.
We say “I want someone to change things….and I’ll protest until they do.”
How come we don’t say “I want to change things!”?
This idea, the choice of protest, extends itself to the church.
Members sometimes encounter an unpleasant truth:
there are some officeholders, employees,
some people in positions of responsibility and authority in the church
who fail to live up to the ideal of discipleship.
They are insensitive to the needs of others.
They engage in self-promotion.
They misuse their power and authority so as to promote their own gain.
They misrepresent what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.
They lack understanding, insight, wisdom, awareness.
They practice favoritism. They are biased against women.
They are blind to their own sin.
And they use situations to their own advantage.
When we encounter such systematic failure we say “I want someone to change things”
and then we protest: either we continue to grumble even as we participate in Eucharist
or we withhold our contributions, or even walk away.
We encourage others to join our protest.
How come we don’t say “I want to change things”?
There are times I personally am confronted by the sinfulness that exists
in the government of our church.
And the thought comes “maybe it’s time for me to seek another path in life”.
A wise priest once told me
“never let go of what you have
until you are certain that you can replace it
with something much better.”
As flawed as some governing disciples are in the Church
I have yet to find something better.
Every time we gather and celebrate the gift of our salvation,
the work being accomplished in the world through the spirit of Jesus Christ,
the work of confronting evil and overcoming sin,
the work of discipleship
the work of proclaiming God’s goodness, kindness and love….
we pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ.
We remember his promise to us
and we renew our promise to Him:
we agree to live in a certain way, to follow a certain path.
We agree to be loyal to Him by following his example.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we re-commit ourselves to certain obligations
to pursue the good and to avoid sin.
We orient ourselves, we re-devote ourselves to the highest of Christian standards,
to love, to sacrifice, to serve,
to remain faithful to what this cross represents.
It is God’s love, and not any human representation or misrepresentation of divine love
that orders our lives
and determines our choices in this world.
Face the crucifix hanging above the sanctuary.
Put your right hand over your heart.
Please join me in saying a Pledge of Allegiance to Jesus Christ:
"I pledge allegiance to the cross
of Jesus Christ, Son of God.
And to the Kingdom for which it stands,
one body of believers,
united in God’s love,
undivided by evil and sin,
for all. Amen!”
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time