Christ Over Country

The Flag Code for the flag of the United States, which details the handling, display, and use of our country’s flag, includes a line that “No other flag or pennant should be placed above the flag of the United States of America” 

This requirement should come as no surprise to most of us, We are used to seeing the flag placed on the highest position of the highest flag pole, the place of most prominence and honor. 

Like most requirements in the flag code, the positioning of a flag is a symbol
It reminds us that our country, its ideals, its people, its leaders
The things that have the highest power in the land, should also hold the highest authority in our life, Our flag should be over all other flags, over the flag of our county, state, over the flag of the United Nations, when we are in the US, the country’s flag flies highest.  

However there is one exception to this rule.
When a navy ship is at sea, and the chaplain is holding a worship service, then and only then the flag of a religion or faith is allowed to fly higher than the flag of the United States. This is the only time the US Flag is allowed to be in secondary position. During a worship service at sea, when it can be placed below a religious flag. 

I find this fascinating… baked into the flag code of our country is this little exception that provides room for faith to be honored above country… as if to signify that even the highest government, even the highest leaders and powers that be… exist under a higher authority.

I also find it paradoxical and ironic that the one exception to this rule allows the flag of Jesus Christ to be flown higher!

The flag of Jesus, a poor jewish carpenter, 
Jesus, a wandering rabbi from nowheresville Nazareth, 
This Jesus, is allowed an exception
and given a place of honor and prominence above the flag of our country. 

Jesus, the stone the builders rejected
the man you could always find among the poor and rejected of society
the man who touched the untouchable unclean lepers, 
the man who befriended and welcomed the foreigner and the stranger,
the man who defended the weak, the mistreated, and discriminated,
the man who loved even his enemies
It is this Jesus, that is the one exception
allowed to take precedence over the flag of one of the most powerful countries of the world. 

Today, is “Christ the King” Sunday.
And the church marks this day by proclaiming Christ’s authority and power over our lives. 
We remind ourselves that above all else, “Jesus is our King” 
He is our Ruler, our Judge, our Leader, 
Above all others. He governs our lives, He is in charge. 
Beyond all dividing lines and national boundaries, we live in his kingdom.

Today, We proclaim that Christ is our King
We declare to the world that it is his kingdom we live in. 
That we raise his flag above any other, above the flag of our nation, above the flag of our state, 
...even, above the flag of college football teams.

Today, We proclaim that Christ is our King, and in doing so, we make sure to note the irony of that statement. Because after all, the one time Jesus was called king while he was living was in a mocking tone, above his head scribbled out above his head as he died. Christ was a king who was humiliated, defeated, and crucified.

Christ was the exact opposite of what we think of when we think of kings. He didn’t come into the world with all power, he came as a vulnerable baby. He didn’t grab hold of power, or wealth, or control… whatever little he had, he gave away, to lift up and heal those who had even less. This was the vision Christ laid out for his kingdom, that it be a kingdom of humility and love.

Today we name Christ our King, but we do so, knowing that he is a king who was who gives his crown to the absolute lowest of society, He is a judge whose judgement is Love, He is our ruler who governs our lives and only sees potential. 

But naming Christ as our King, and ruler above all rulers, is one thing…
actually living like it is another thing entirely!

What does that look like? 

What does it look like to wake up everyday as a citizen of Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom? 

What does it look to pledge allegiance to Christ’s Flag?

And what does it look like to live in Christ’s Kingdom, while still living on earth? While still pledging allegiance to the flag of our country?

In 2008, Evangelical Christian Author, Shane Claiborne teamed up with his friend Chris Haw to write a book they called “Jesus for President.”

In this book, they attempt to answer these questions, they attempt to call christians to step outside of the politics of our world, the politics of power, control, and wealth and they call christians to seek a higher politic, the politics of Christ.

The whole book is excellent, and I commend it to you, but listen to how they describe their book, and their hopes for Christians in the US. They say:

This book is a project in renewing the imagination of the church in the United States and of those who would seek to know Jesus. We are seeing more and more that the church has fallen in love with the state and that this love affair is killing the church’s imagination. 
The powerful benefits and temptations of running the world’s largest superpower have bent the church’s identity. Having power at its fingertips, the church often finds “guiding the course of history” a more alluring goal than actually following the crucified Christ. and too often the patriotic values of pride and strength, triumph over the spiritual virtues of humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love So, what we need is a renovated Christian politic, a new set of hopes, goals, and practices. We are ready to turn off our TVs, pick up our Bibles, and reimagine the world.”
— Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, pg. 17-20

When we became Christians, When we were baptized and joined this family of faith, we became citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. This became our first identity. The Kingdom of Heaven is not some far of vision, its just about our life beyond death… it is here and now.

As citizen’s of the kingdom of heaven, we wake up everyday, and live by the rules of heaven amid the violent, broken, and unjust powers of earth. We wake up everyday, and pledge allegiance to Jesus which is a pledge we make above the pledge to our country.

We take on Christ’s posture toward the world, with all of his humility, all of his gentleness, all of his sacrificial love and we follow him. We follow him as he reimagines the world. We follow him to work until all of the world looks like Christ’s Kingdom. We follow his way of love, until the barriers that divide us are broken down, until mountains are lowered, and valleys are lifted up, and all people can live on the same level.

Isaiah writes:
“Prepare a way for the Lord!
    Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up,
    and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
    Uneven ground will become level,
    and rough terrain a valley plain.
Then Lord’s glory will appear,
    and all humanity will see it together;
    the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”

John, in Revelation continues this thought:
"Look, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. This is so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty.”

My friends, living Christ’s Kingdom means preparing the way of the Lord in our world now, it means lifting up those people in the lowest valley, it means humbling those people on the highest mountain, it means bringing all people to the same level, so that we can no only see one another as beloved children of God, but also so we can see more clearly the almighty way of Jesus Christ, Our King, who is coming in the clouds, even now.

Jesus is building his kingdom here, 
As citizens of this kingdom, lets follow Christ, lets take part in building it.
Let's choose to live under Christ's Reign, with all his humility, and gentleness,

Amen.