Exchange Club

Howdy! I hope you're having a pleasant Wednesday. I was invited to speak today to a local chapter of the National Exchange Club. Once a year they hold a "One Nation Under God" program and invite a clergy person to speak. The goal of the day is to uplift the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance, the flag, and the American value system.

I was honored to be invited. I was also quite uncertain as to how to speak for 20 minutes on what it means to be one nation under God. The process of researching and having conversations with others on the theme was immensely grounding. I feel renewed in my appreciation for what it means to be American.

Overall - it seems to be a HUGE privilege - and also a GIGANTIC responsibility. Here's the outline of the talk in case you're interested; I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic of what it means to be One Nation Under God.

Exchange Club
“One Nation Under God”
November 20, 2014

·      Introduction
o   Background
o   Joy to be here – thank you for the invitation
§  Especially a joy to learn more about the history of the National Exchange Club and your four core values..
·      Americanism
·      Youth Programs
·      Community Service
·      Prevention of Child Abuse
o   The One Nation Under God project was started in 1964 – special 50th year anniversary
o   Thank you for the work that you do – and the core values that you profess.
·      One Nation Under God month is a time to celebrate: Appreciation for American flag & American history; Appreciation for Pledge of Allegiance; valuing of the religious freedom that we have in the United States
·      We each come into this day and every day looking at the world through a different lens. And therefore, I would imagine that One Nation Under God means something a little bit different to all of us.  Part of what we celebrate today is that we don’t all have to think the same. That’s one of the gifts of this country.
·      My perspective is primarily rooted in my belief that we are all loved children of God – apart from anything we do or don’t do…apart from our country of birth.  Insights of this talk also include perspectives of my amazing and wise colleagues at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod office. I am not an American History expert. But I know enough to know that American history is like all history – it contains a lot of layers. Some good. Some not so good. A lot to celebrate…freedom, democracy, determination. A lot to learn from…the unjust treatment of native Americans and our neglect for the earth – to name a few. The best way to honor what it means to be One Nation Under God – is likely a celebration that God is with us and guiding us in the midst of all of it. That frees us to be honest with ourselves…and persevere in continuing to build this country on justice, kindness, and peace.
·      In honoring what it means to be one nation under God, I am overwhelmed by two aspects of what it means to be an American –
o   1. It is an immense privilege.
§  Access to education
§  Access to health care
§  Diversity of experiences
§  Government rooted in good practices (overall)
o   2. For all those reasons, being an American is an immense responsibility.
§  Luke 12:48 – “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
§  We do have freedom. Amazing freedom. And for those who follow Jesus, we are reminded of the emphasis that he placed on service. Core value of this organization. We are freed to serve.  
·      What I hear from people in congregations & column readers – is a deep sense to preserve core values…faith, appreciation, respect. And sometimes it comes out as frustration that things are changing. That “kids these days” don’t understand or appreciate. That we are somehow being threatened. Those are all understandable. But I also know that anger is not a great motivation for behavioral change. Frustration isn’t either. And then under all of that is a sense of fear, I think. Fear that the world and our country are changing too fast.
o   Thanks be to God, “Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
o   We don’t have to be afraid.
·      Here are 5 productive approaches to honoring what it means to be “One Nation Under God” – and sharing our love of this country with others.
o   1. Maintain humility of attitude
§  Christ the King Sunday coming up this weekend….read from Philippians 2: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
§  Jesus was humble
§  We don’t know it all and that’s okay - we still have more to learn – AND we have a lot to offer.
o   2. Respect for Tradition
§  If we want to help current and future generations appreciate our core values – and our pride as Americans, we have to know our history, right?
§  “It has to be the way it’s always been” isn’t a convincing way to invite future generations to appreciate tradition, but Stories are very convincing!
·      Articulate WHY it is important to us that God be part of conversation
·      What do you remember about learning the pledge?
·      Why do you want your children to know it and appreciate it?
o   3. Patience with those who think differently or are unaware
o   4. Boldness to Love
§  Readiness to share your story
§  Readiness to serve
o   5. Trust in the Holy Spirit

§  As we seek to uphold our core values – and celebrate what it means to be American – and pass on a legacy…we don’t do this alone. We do it with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guides us and will continue to guide us.

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