Our Country

by Rev. Dr. Edward Goode, via his site Imago Scriptura

Our Country

In worship today, I shared about the Sacred Summer gift of Justice (link here).  I shared of how I am so grateful to live in this country and how proud I am to be an American.  At the same time, while I am proud to be an American, my first calling is not as an American but as a follower of the Way of Jesus.  As such, I have been working to recognize and use the gifts/privileges that I have been given (most of which I did not earn) for helping to be a part of God’s transformation of the world.  So, as a follower of Jesus who is also an American citizen, I find it to be an ongoing balance between the two because there are times that they do not always line up.  

But what I love about my country is the promise of what we have been and can be.  It isn’t necessary what we have always been but the promise of it.  I took this photo several years ago while out off the coast of South Carolina.  I love it because it isn’t just the flag but instead the flag along with the closing light of a day.  Sunsets and sunrises always speak to me of possibilities…possibilities of what can be, of new beginnings that are possible, and of new futures that can be discovered.  That, to me, is the promise of America – possibilities of new futures and new beginnings.  That is part of what has been our country’s history even as we also recognize the ways that our history has not lived that out.  Even when we have not lived up to what we can be, it doesn’t change the promise of what can still be.  

In many ways that is also what is central to me about the Way of Jesus – it is a path that always has room for people to join or rejoin.  It always allows for new beginnings and new futures.  It is always a path of hope.  

This morning, one of my friends from seminary shared new verses to America The Beautiful that he wrote for the congregation he serves.  He gave me permission to share them here.  They are beautiful, powerful, hopeful, and challenging as they speak to what we’ve been and what we can still be.  Thank you to Zach Wilson, transitional pastor at Andrew Riverside Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
America America!
God bless all lands and tongues,
May all agree God’s liberty
Will make the nations one.

O beautiful for heroes’ work
to make our nation just,
Who see beyond the man-made murk
Of borders we construct.
America! America!
May God your spirit form;
Grant to the poor an open door,
The huddled mass, a home.

O beautiful for human dreams
That transform present fears,
To faith we share in all that streams
To ears that finally hear!
America! America!
May God all hard hearts soothe
So that success is more than stress
And rough roads are made smooth.

Rev. Zachary Wilson, Andrew Riverside Presbyterian Church