The flag flying high
When I moved from my curacy in Oxford, friends decked out my beloved Renault 4 Francoise’s car aerial with streamers. Three years later in Wolverhampton, when the ribbons had frayed to shreds, I was asked what was the meaning of the little pennants on my car. I told him the story, but, as it happened, that evening my three-year-old daughter Rachel (now 34!) gave me another ribbon with the words ‘For your car, Daddy!’
That week-end I attached it to my car aerial, thinking there must be a deep meaning in this – or else I was already becoming eccentric! There’s an old children’s chorus, ‘His banner over me is love’. The line comes from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, an unashamed love-song between a man and a woman, which Christians over the centuries have seen as a picture of the glorious intimacy and confidence that the love of God brings to his children. Another chorus sings: ‘Joy is the flag flying high on the castle of my heart, for the King is in residence there’. That ribbon fluttering above me wherever I drove along was a sign to me of the warm confidence we can have in the love of God and the sheer joy of serving him as Lord and King.
But there is another association – rather more bracing. In my early days as a Christian at University, I was often encouraged to ‘nail my colours to the mast’. It is a naval expression when a ship’s company would not hide or betray their allegiance. In battle their flag was nailed to the mast so that it could not be lowered – they would not surrender and would, if necessary, fight to the last under their ship’s flag. By that phrase, I was being urged as a Christian to let it be known to the world where my new allegiance lay and that I was now living for Christ. That ribbon not only made me recognisable in my little car, but also constantly nailed me to the high calling of being a follower and servant of Jesus Christ.
Now you know my eccentricity. But I’m glad that Rachel made me renew my pennant that year. It was 30 years ago. I hope there’s such a flag flying somewhere in your life to remind you of God’s love and of your allegiance to Jesus Christ.
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David Banting, 15.03.18