More About that Song and the Flag

The other day I shared some thoughts regarding the Pledge of Allegiance (Our Flag and Independence Day). I also shared a song, written by a nun that speaks to my heart. It is so aspirational! Today we used the song, along with a litany that I’ve modified and used throughout the past few years. This year I was unable to say the words. It was so bad I asked the congregation to help by us saying the words with me.

My heart hurts for our country.

P:    As we remember the birth of our nation, and the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let us offer our thanks and prayers to God, the giver of all good gifts.
For this land, with its peaks and valleys, coasts and deserts, fields and meadows. For the women and men who braved the long journey to come to this new world. For the tribes and nations who inhabited this land for generation upon generation,

                                             How beautiful, our spacious skies, our amber waves of grain,
our purple mountains as they rise above the fruitful plain:
America! America! God’s gracious gifts abound,
And more and more we’re grateful for life’s bounty all around

P:    For patriots who dreamed of, and fought for, a free nation. For the men and women who laid the foundation of our democracy, and who pledged liberty and justice for all. For those who built this country brick by brick, road by road, and town by town. For the brave soldiers who have fought for our country, for all who paid for our freedom by their service, and those who paid by their sacrifice. For the innovators and artists, poets and teachers, farmers and factory workers; for all who labor and provide for the common good. For our own community, for those who came before us in this place, and for our neighbors near and far.

Indigenous and immigrant, our daughters and our sons;
O may we never rest content till all are truly one.
America! America! God grant that we may be
A sisterhood and brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

P:    For the United States, that we might always be a nation which defends and promotes liberty and freedom, truth and justice. That we might always be a nation where all are free to worship and pray. That we might be a beacon of freedom to all those who live under the shadow of terror and hopelessness.
That those who are elected to govern and lead, would be guided by you, and be ever aware of the trust that has been given them. That we would be a people who repent from our sins, and who always return to you and to your grace,

How beautiful, sincere lament, the wisdom born of tears,
The courage call for to repent the bloodshed through the years.
America! America! God grant that we may be,
A nation blessed with none oppressed, true land of liberty.

P:    Gracious and holy God of all nations, bless and defend us and our land; prosper the work of our hands, and increase in us your grace and compassion, and our offerings of thanks to you, our rock and our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea,
That dream of peace, non-violence, all people living free.
Americas! Americas! God grant that we may be,
A hemisphere where people here all live in harmony.

Litany adapted from: http://www.rickmorley.com/archives/1673?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=litany-for-independence-day

“How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies”, Sister Miriam Therese Winter. Hymns, Songs, Rounds and Refrains for Prayer and Praise. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996

 

Our Flag and Independence Day

Pixabay - american-flag-795307.jpgA few weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in our preschool and kindergarten graduations. Because we have different options for attendance at our school, we have multiple graduation services. I’m not sure if you know this, but one of the civic responsibilities taught to our children is the pledge of allegiance. So, to demonstrate their proficiency as well as their pride in our country the children lead us in the pledge. Thus, I participated in saying the pledge of allegiance four times in two days. Here are the words:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands.
One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This year, as I said that pledge I had two thoughts.

First, of the rancor that is dividing our country. Some of that division is over the flag, not so much the pledge but rather the National Anthem. I’ve debated with people about this because I strongly believe in the freedom that our flag symbolizes. While I stand and while I recite the pledge, I do so supporting my brothers and sisters who choose to do something else. If saluting this flag of ours is compulsory, then we’ve lost the freedom for which it stands.

My second thought centered on the words “with liberty and justice for all.” These are words of aspiration and I hope that one day, we as a nation will truly reflect the “for all” part of these words.

Meanwhile, as Christian Americans we remember that our ultimate loyalty is to the God who loves us. This love transcends borders. This love recognizes the dignity and worth of every human, even those with whom we might disagree. It is this love that leads me to be a seeker of justice. It is this love that assures me, and us, of God’s grace all those times we are unable to love as we are loved. And it is this love that, when active in our midst, can transform our world.

As we celebrate Independence Day may we do so with thanksgiving for the ideals of the place in which we live. May we also strive to live up to the values that are enshrined in our pledge as well as our constitution. But above all, may we, no matter the circumstances, love and defend our neighbor. For that, my friend is what God commands us to do.

When I was in seminary my preaching professor used to start our classes with song. One song touched me and continues to touch me. It is a slight re-write of America the Beautiful. The re-write, done by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, transforms the song into one of repentance and hope. We’ve used this in worship and will do so July 1.

How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies

How beautiful, our spacious skies, our amber waves of grain
our purple mountains as they rise above the fruitful plain:
America! America! God’s gracious gifts abound,
And more and more we’re grateful for life’s bounty all around

 Indigenous and immigrant, our daughters and our sons;
O may we never rest content till all are truly one.
America! America! God grant that we may be
A sisterhood and brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

 How beautiful, sincere lament, the wisdom born of tears,
The courage call for to repent the bloodshed through the years.
America! America! God grant that we may be,
A nation blessed with none oppressed, true land of liberty.

 How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea,
That dream of peace, non-violence, all people living free.
Americas! Americas! God grant that we may be,
A hemisphere where people here all live in harmony.

“How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies”, Sister Miriam Therese Winter. Hymns, Songs, Rounds and Refrains for Prayer and Praise. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996