An Anthem with a Question

An Anthem with a Question

Published July 1, 2020

5th Sunday after Pentecost/July 1, 2020

Just these lines, my friends …
… to say the Wilson family enjoyed some days together in the lovely mountain town of Blowing Rock. You can watch here a short video of me reading the book, Lola Dutch, I Love You So Much to my granddaughter Lola. I can’t begin to say “thank you” enough for the time you give to me to focus on family.

A very special “thank you” to Pastor Brad for his special words for us this past Sunday. If you missed it, you can watch here.

Why is there a Question Mark at the End of the National Anthem?
Well, friends, it is the week of the 4th of July, and have you ever noticed that our national anthem asks a question?

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

That was not a rhetorical question for Francis Scott Key on September 14, 1814, as he watched for the sun to rise over Fort McHenry.  It was up for grabs as to whether he would see the “Union Jack” or the “broad stripes and bright stars” that were “so gallantly streaming” the night before.  Would the nation the flag represented endure?  A glimpse amid “the rockets’ red glare [and] bombs bursting in air” gave him “proof that our flag [and all that it represented] was still there.

But no matter how loudly we cheer when the soloist hits that high note on the last line, the anthem still ends with a question mark.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

That persistent question has always been with us.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Dr. James McHenry asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got–a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  

At Gettysburg, Lincoln reminded us that this nation was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The Civil War was “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

At the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., called the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  He declared: “We have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”

The question has never been a rhetorical one.  It confronts every generation with fierce urgency. Will the ideals and promise the flag represents endure?  “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”

Many of us approach this 4th of July feeling the “fierce urgency of now.”  I feel more deeply than ever both the promise that the flag represents and Franklin’s warning: “If you can keep it.”

Thomas Friedman once declared, “The biggest threat to America is us. Only we can take ourselves down … only we can ensure that the American dream — the core promise we’ve made to ourselves that each generation will do better than its parents — is not fulfilled.”

In this and every generation, the question continues to haunt us: Will a nation so conceived and so dedicated long endure? “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”

With Francis Scott Key, I still have hope!  The second verse of Key’s poem answers the question with a resounding affirmation:

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Across our history, when the mists have seemed deep, in times when we have failed to live up to the Founders’ vision, we have caught a glimpse of the highest hopes and strongest ideals the flag represents.  My hope and prayer is that we will once again “catch the gleam” and rise up to the high calling that was declared on the 4th of July in 1776.

This Sunday (July 5) in Worship
This Sunday in our morning worship services, we will celebrate one of our most sacred sacraments — Holy Communion. This act of worship is a testimony of our belief in the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please plan to have your bread and cup nearby to join with us.

Our July Summer series, A Church FOR the Community: Studies in the Book of Nehemiah, gets underway this weekend. You can prepare by reading Nehemiah, Chapters 1 and 2. Thank you for your faithfulness and commitment to our Matthews United Methodist community of faith. We have much to celebrate.

Happy Independence Day,

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II

Did you know that The United Methodist Church will host “Dismantling Racism: Pressing on to Freedom” Town Hall Discussion with historians and church leaders today, July 1st at 1 pm? Follow this link for details:

Did you know that the Family Covenant Class had a driveway parade with signs, a balloon and cards for Roy and Carol Young as they prepare for a move to Greensboro? The Youngs have been a part of the leadership team for the class for many years and will be missed.

Did you know that over 40 women gathered on Zoom to attend our first online Belonging Women’s event last Thursday and Friday evening? Participants had the chance to meet in small groups, fellowship, laugh and enjoy time together in the comfort of their homes, all while learning about true community and deeper relationships with God and other women.

Did you know Kelly McRell, member and employee of First United Methodist Church was named a William C. Friday Fellow? Read the article published on the conference website here.

Did you know that the Global Impact Disaster and Crisis Relief and Recovery Fund provided funds to Kidron Valley Ministries to purchase food and diapers and support some operational expenses they have incurred due to the COVID-19 Lockdown? Your generous gifts to the Disaster and Crisis Relief fund is helping orphans in Uganda during the pandemic.
Did you know that MUMC will begin hosting Bridge Building Conversations the last Wednesday of each month? Our first online event will be a conversation with Pastor Brad based on the book Fear of The Other by William Willimon on Wednesday, July 29 at 7:00 pm. You can purchase the book on the following link so you will be prepared to have an insightful & meaningful conversation with Pastor Brad and others: Fear of the Other – by William Willimon (Check here for monthly Zoom details…first event link to come soon!)