Faith: Reconsidering our hymn choices this Independence Day
Martin Luther tells us that to sing is to pray twice. When we include patriotic hymns in worship, we often include them in a way that exalts one nation over others. We seek grandeur and power. We want to secure our nation against threats both internal and external. We may even want to sanctify our own view of what the country should be at the expense of other views of the country. All of these are dangerous choices for how we use music and prayer for a nation in our divine worship.
One of the hymns included in our hymnal for use during national periods of remembrance is a song composed by Lloyd Stone in the period between the two world wars. It is set to the tune of the Finnish national anthem. Unlike many national hymns, this hymn specifically reminds us that almost all people pray for the prosperity of their own nation. Stone wrote:
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 holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
The song offers a hope for all nations not just one. It also calls the lovers of a nation to remember that others love their own just as much. The second verse compares national beauties of blue skies and green fields. This aspirational song calls us to reassess our relationship both with our own nation and others.
The second verse ends with these words:
O hear my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
The prayer is a request for all people to enjoy the peace of God. This asks for us to stretch our boundaries and to look for the good of all people. For many of us this is a new way of looking at a patriotic holiday and a new way to sing songs on a national holiday. I encourage you to consider the words of this unfamiliar national hymn as you prepare for Independence Day.
Rev. Deana Armstrong is the pastor of First Congregational Church, Craig.
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