I had acted innocently enough. Summer was approaching, and I was in need of fresh sermon ideas. So I prepared a bulletin insert asking for suggested texts or topics.

The first one in sizzled like a fuse on a Fourth of July firecracker: "Why don't you ever preach on patriotism? You need to preach on what our flag stands for!"

I felt torn: I didn't want to reject Fred's request out of hand or offend his national pride (he had served his country honorably in World War II), but I do not believe that truth, justice, and "the American way" are triune. I've always considered myself a loyal citizen, and I'm grateful for the liberties I enjoy, yet for me, national loyalties must bow before the Lordship of Christ. How could I possibly preach a biblical message on the American flag-especially the kind of message Fred would expect?

The next time I visited Fred, I said I would be on vacation the weekend of July 4 (true enough, but also a cop-out). I also explained I would be more comfortable preaching ...

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