It’s always easier to speak lofty ideals than to live up to them.
Preachers face this difficult challenge. Week after week, we have to get up in the pulpit and give sermons, of all things. We consult with people on the most intimate challenges of their lives, and try to be helpful. It’s a lifelong challenge to live with integrity in the face of what we preach whether it is about prayer, money or relationships.
But preachers aren’t the only ones who face this challenge. On U.S. Independence Day, I’ve been thinking about American ideals and the daily opportunity to live up to them. This gorgeous photo (from Death to the Stock Photo) reminds me of the phrase “from sea to shining sea” in “God Bless America.”
When I was choosing hymns for worship, I wasn’t crazy about patriotic hymns around the Fourth of July. I felt like worship should be about God, not praising America. But the one patriotic song I liked the best and seemed most appropriate for worship was “America the Beautiful.” The lyrics say this:
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
With the caveat that the language is a bit patriarchal (natural for a song written around the turn of the last century) what I like is that it is aspirational. It means not that God has shed his grace on thee, but may God shed his grace on thee, and may God crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. The song expresses that hope that we may live out our ideals of universal brother- and sisterhood across the nation.
We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve made progress since 1900 and even more since 1776.
My hope for preachers, Christians and citizens is that we can all embody more fully these ideals between now and the next July 4.