Freedom on display


Have you heard that the National Anthem and the American flag have become a topic of conversation recently? There are 14,440 minutes in a day… the National Anthem takes about 3-5 minutes to sing or perform. Social media platform’s abound with ways to express opinion and voice one’s perspective like never before in history. It is fascinating to me that this particular issue finds itself in a time-tested moment where our nation’s anthem is played and a nation’s flag is flown. It has always seemed too sacred a space of time to do anything else other than stand with the respect due the moment. In fact, there are rules about such things… according to 36 U.S. Code § 301… “During a rendition of the national anthem— (1) when the flag is displayed (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” Why are we supposed to do this? Well, because this grand old flag and this song we Americans call our anthem represents more than just a song and some cloth on a pole. It represents a nation where just 4% of the world’s population live in freedom, a freedom that comes from God and not government, a blessed nation who just this past week celebrated 230 years under the same birth certificate, The United States Constitution. No other nation in history has enjoyed such an honor. As my good friend Chad Connelly says, “we don’t see anyone from America taking wood from their homes and strapping it together to build a boat to leave this country for another!” That flag also stands for the incredible price that was paid for that freedom by laying their very lives down that we might enjoy freedom’s blessings today. Those who, as Lincoln said, gave their full measure of devotion. These brave men and women who have served, who are serving now and the families of all of the above, are reflected in that flag. No one—including me—is opposed to the right to protest; we are Americans, you can do that here without fear for your life. Using the flag and the moment the nation’s anthem is being played for a platform… NOT COOL!

I was incredibly inspired by the words of Combat-wounded Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones. During his eight years of service, he worked as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan on separate tours. During his last deployment to Afghanistan, Jones was responsible for disarming and destroying more than 80 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and thousands of pounds of other unknown bulk explosives. It was during that tour on August 6, 2010 he stepped on and initiated an IED, resulting in the loss of both of his legs above the knee and severe damage to his right forearm and both wrists. In response to those NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem said… “I would stand in front of every man kneeling in the NFL and ask that man to stand with me because I stand for him.” I love the Staff Sargent’s heart and his words. Kind of reminds me of another season of history when Freedom was on display. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome he writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When Jesus went to the cross to die for the sins of mankind there were those who missed the true focal point then as well, kneeling below the cross gambling for the clothes that Jesus wore. Interestingly enough, it was a Roman centurion that understood the moment and recognized the true picture of freedom on display before him.

It was September of the year 1814 and Francis Scott Key began to catch a glimpse of the flag over fort McHenry and was inspired to pen the words that we today embrace as our National Anthem. We all know the first verse but may never forget what the fourth verse reminds us, “O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand, Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation; Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! Generations that follow are counting on us to be the best of stewards of the freedom that has been lovingly handed to us! May this always be our motto and may God continue to Bless America!

Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.