Summary: Allegiance to God means something
Title: What have you got to lose?
When you were in school, I suspect you had to learn the Pledge of Allegiance. You probably also had to recite it most mornings, and if you were like me, you probably did so without realizing how offensive it really was. There is one little phrase – just two words – that completely changes the entire thing. There are two words that if they weren’t just rote recitation really should have made us stop and really think pretty hard every morning about what we were saying. It was just two words that should never be spoken lightly: Pledge and Allegiance.
I know, you were probably thinking I was going to something else. But those two words – pledge and allegiance really are the focus of what the pledge is about, and I’d challenge anyone to convince me otherwise. But those two words – pledge and allegiance shouldn’t be something we speak lightly. Especially today, in a society were we value freedom and autonomy and getting for ourselves more than anything else. Those are some pretty counter-cultural words.
This morning we’re just read a pledge of allegiance in scripture. And, yes, in that one, it truly was ‘under God.’ But this morning, I really want to think about those words, what it means when we pledge that allegiance. I want you to get the full force of what is being asked. They’re both words you know, but it’s worth pausing to reflect on what they mean.
That first word – pledge – is more than just something the preacher expects you to cough up when the money’s short. A pledge is a promise – a sacred contract that you freely offer. I know I just made fun of it, but think about what it means when you pledge to your church or the local PBS station. It’s a promise that you make that says, “I will support this. I’ll give you my money, my prayers, I stand with this.”
Especially out here where we live amongst farmers, we know what it means to give our word. It’s not something we ever do lightly. If we break our pledge, people don’t trust us, and if we break our pledge, they really shouldn’t either. Faithfulness, truthfulness – these are things we want to expect.
So, we know that we are going to promise something by saying a pledge. But what is it that we are going to promise? Well, our allegiance. Back in medieval days, your liege was the guy in the castle who kept you safe when the barbarian horde came up over the mountain. He promised to lay his life for you. In return, you promised you’d stick by him no matter what. He was the Lord of the Manor, and you did what he said – or else when the horde came? Well, he wouldn’t let you in.
Nowadays, there are lot fewer barbarians around, so we don’t have nearly as many ‘liege-ences as we used to. That said – eight years ago, on July 11th, 1998, I certainly pledged my allegiance to one woman in particular. I said, no matter what, I’m going to stick with you. Whether we’re rich or poor, sick or healthy, whether our kids go to Harvard or San Quentin, I’m stickin’ with you. We promised we’d be there for each other, no matter what.
Nine days out of ten, we know why made that promise, and on the tenth day – well, sometimes we just have to remember that we did. After being together for as long as we have been and especially now that we have had two great kids together, it’s just not fair to say, “Oh, I’m not in love with you today, so you’re on your own, baby.” We pledge our allegiance to our wives or our husbands, because we love them and we know that they love us. It doesn’t matter if the kids are screaming, I don’t have to wonder.
When we pledge our allegiance to the flag, and to the republic for which it stands, we’re making the same declaration. It may do things we don’t like from time to time, but we know that it’s been good to us. And let’s face it – for every scandal or mishap or bad policy we can cite from the news, we also know that in our day to day lives, this is still a country that does great things.
But as Christians, we have one more allegiance – and its one that’s even better. We have chosen to freely pledge our allegiance, not to our family, which may last 50 years, or to some country which hasn’t even been around 500 years – but rather we have given our allegiance to the God who has been around every one of the years that ever has been or ever will be.