Sunday will be one of those slightly rare occasions when the Christian Sabbath and the Declaration of Independence converge.
July 4th last fell on a Sunday in 2010, and it won’t happen again until 2027.
Some local pastors say they will recognize the day and its importance to Christians but not to the point America’s birth as a nation supplants the gospel message.
The Rev. Chris Winford, senior pastor at Brunswick First Baptist Church, and the Rev. Jerry Johns, pastor at Pine Ridge Baptist both say their congregations will pray for the nation, sing patriotic hymns and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
When it comes to his sermon, however, Winford said First Baptist will stick with the theme of an ongoing series of messages.
The series is called, “Summer of Love: Learning to Love Like Jesus.” This Sunday’s sermon is entitled “Loving the Nation Back to Jesus, One Person at a Time.”
“The nation is divided,’’ Winford said, but “The Bible tells us they will know us by our love.”
The series seeks to show people how to look beyond their differences and be at peace with each other, he said.
“How can a Democrat love a Republican? How can a Georgia fan love a Florida fan?’’ he said.
Johns said there is no escaping the animosity that dominates American politics, but he also says the answer is in faith.
“We know America is divided, but we say Jesus is the great uniter,’’ he said.
In his former career as a video producer, Johns said he traveled the world working on projects for Campus Crusade for Christ and other Christian organizations and went to Russia, Africa, Mexico and Guatemala with pastors.
“When I came home and went through customs, I felt like I needed to get down and kiss the ground,’’ he said.
Although we live in an imperfect nation, America remains a great nation and everyone should be grateful for the nation and those who have sacrificed to preserve it, he said.
“Anybody who served in the military gets a hug when they’re here,’’ Johns said of his church.
Winford said being an American is in itself a blessing.
“I’m grateful, I’m thankful to live in America,’’ he said. “We need to be thankful for our country.”
Johns said Pine Ridge is always mindful of the holidays that recognize the USA and those who made sacrifices in its service.
“We tend to honor our flag, our military and our country,’’ he said.
Winford said First Baptist observes a moment of silence on Memorial Day and gives thanks to God for “those who died for us.”
On Veterans Day, the church thanks those who served, he said.
But as a pastor he has to keep the main focus where it should be on July 4th and other patriotic holidays, he said.
“We turn it into a moment of thanks but not worship of the country. The cross is always before the country,’’ he said. “The church’s focus must always be on Christ and his redeeming work for us.”