Sunday is Pentecost. It is the day that we celebrate the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem.
Sunday is also the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a weekend which starts the summer season but is traditional a time of remembrance of deceased veterans and their sacrifices.
Which celebration gets the main focus? Will it be the celebration of the Holy Spirit’s presence and the mission of the church or will it be civil religion and its desire to honor our nation above all things?
The answer to this question says a lot about a church’s focus and where its heart truly lies. For what we honor and celebrate in worship, as many of my friends will argue, is what we will carry into our lives and our relationship with Christ.
If we focus on Pentecost, then our focus is on the mission of the church and how the Holy Spirit leads and directs us to be the witnesses of Christ. However, focusing on Memorial Day entirely in worship sends the message that devotion nation is more important than our relationship with God. This notion seems to be counter to much of Paul’s argument that we are citizens of heaven first and foremost.
Granted, this is not the only time that the mission of the church and the mission of civil religion would seemingly collide. Worship surrounding the Fourth of July can look too much like a national celebration than a celebration of the Triune God. What is perhaps unique about this weekend is that the differences between true religion of God and civil religion is glaring and hard to miss.
Worship leaders and pastors can certainly honor the memory of our veterans in worship, but the act of honoring must not take away from the act of worship of God. If it becomes a distraction, or even takes over the entire worship, then it is possible that we have misguided priorities for worship on this occasion.
Sunday offers a perfect opportunity to focus on the mission of the church. Let us be careful to not trip up the mission by being too focused on a time of honoring nation above true honoring of the Living God.