Published 11:12 am Tuesday, July 12, 2022

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Symbols are never easy to explain. What is it about the flag that stirs such deep emotions in some of us? In spite the failures and shortcomings, what is it about that piece of cloth, the red, white, and blue, that provokes such feelings of pride and love and grandeur? I like the explanation of one older man whose grandson turned to him “and asked, “What is the flag, Grandpa?”

The grandfather thought for a moment and then resounded: “Well son, the flag is a bit of love and a bit of blood and a bit of hope all woven together and crowned with stars. It’s everything we know this country to be and everything we expect it to be and everything we pray it will be…”

Now, the reason I like that older man’s explanation is because it implies that the symbol and the reality are one. We simply cannot separate the flag from what America really is.

Every time that flag is unfurled we can hear the music of fife and drums in our imaginations, and see “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,” and we recall the sacrifice of all those heroes and heroines who have made our freedom possible.

“What is the Flag, Grandpa?” As grandpa put it, “It’s a bit of love.”

I remember in one church I served holding “an appreciation worship service for God and country on the Sunday just prior to July 4th.

Actually, I did that in most of the churches I served. But in this particular one on the Monday following, a professor came to my office and wanted to know why we had held that service, I said, “Basically, we held it for two reasons. First, there is something in the Bible called “A Theology of Blessings.”

It’s located in the Wisdom literature and reminds us to be thankful for our blessings and second, we held that service because of our love for our country. The professor simply replied, “I just wanted to know.”

Surely to love our country does not require that we refuse to confront its ills and problems. Love, we are told and probably from experience, is often blind to the faults of the beloved. But in the long run, it is a weak love that cannot face reality.

“What is the flag, Grandpa?” “It’s a bit of blood.” At the conclusion of the constitutional convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin, making his way down the steps of Constitution Hall, was asked by a lady, “Sir, what did you give us?” Mr. Franklin in answering said, “A Republic, lady, if you can keep it.” By so answering, Franklin recognized that it may be as costly to keep the Republic as it was to get it. Since the utterance of these words, the price has, indeed, been great.

Many of our finest young men and women have given “their last full measure of devotion” for the preservation of this Republic. And I might add, they are still doing it.