Happy 4th of July – Independence Day. Today I am thinking about freedom. And yes, I am one of those people who vehemently dislikes patriotic songs at church. *shudders* The Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic – absolute no. America the Beautiful – maybe. If there is to be singing on or around a national holiday, I will always go with Finlandia, also known as (among other things) “This is My Song.”
Ironically, the song was written in a burst of Finnish nationalism by composer Jean Sebelius in the late 1800’s in response to the encroachment of the Russians. Here we are in 2017, with our bursts of nationalism somehow fused with the encroachment of the Russians, but I digress, and that’s another post for another day.
In any case, the words sung to “This is My Song” in many Christian churches were written by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness. You can read more about them here. Not all lyrics are sung in all places, but they are posted below.
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a prayer that peace transcends in every place;
and yet I pray for my beloved country —
the reassurance of continued grace:
Lord, help us find our one-ness in the Savior,
in spite of differences of age and race.
May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms,
thy kingdom come, on earth, thy will be done;
let Christ be lifted up ’til all shall serve him,
and hearts united, learn to live as one:
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations,
myself I give thee — let thy will be done.
There are many reasons that I love this song, but mostly I love the way that the point is made that we are not alone in this world. The very notion that God loves America (or Canada or Saudi Arabia or Israel or Japan or Tunisia or Spain or Australia) better than anywhere else is absurd. The second verse speaks to that so powerfully… other lands. God is everywhere, God made us all, God made the world. Therefore, it stands to reason that… well, you can see where I am headed. In John 17, Jesus did say that he came so that “all may be one.” Am I missing something here?
In any case, we have a bigger problem than other lands, because there are many of us who do not wish others of us, to be part of this vast experiment called America. Now there are extreme conservatives who would paint all liberals as enemies. There are those very far to the left who would see anything less than socialism and an utter rejection of the status quo as an unjust government. We are so busy cutting, carving, slicing, disecting, and excising others that we may end up living in silos all alone. No pesky disagreement there!
Um – does anyone think that the entire elimination of the other is good in any fashion? Maybe you reject those who would want to totally eliminate all Muslims from the US. Yet in the same breath, you yourself may wish to totally eliminate all conservatives from the US. I am reminded of the words of William Sloane Coffin, Jr. as he defined patriots.
In my humble opinion, all these ideologies and divisions kill us. If we are to employ the motto “e plurbis unum,” we would be reminded that it means, “out of many, one.” This does not advise us to some Borg-like hive mind, but rather that our greatest strengths of unity come from our very diversity. For those of us who are Christian, we might be reminded that unity in diversity is the very underpinning of the Trinity.
On this 4th of July, may be we reminded that songs of peace can and will go further than songs of division and war, but only if we sing and live them. Do we desire a world in which we are the only ones, living with only those who agree with us? Or do we wish to be part of something bigger and better than that? And if we do wish for the latter, what do we plan on doing to get there?
Maybe we can all ponder that today – and then get into action. In the meantime, listen to some beautiful versions of Finlandia, dreaming of our land, dreaming of other lands, so that all may live in freedom.