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July 4th Musing 2020

Musings for July 4, 2020

Some of you may have thought I forgot to send a musing this week, but I did not because I wanted to send it out today. July 4th is a special day for both this nation and my family.

My grandfather (my Mom’s father who I called Grandaddies) was inducted into the Army for World War II on July 4th. 60 years to the day later, I contacted Disney World via email and was fortunate to be able to have him honored as Walt Disney World’s Veteran of the Day where he participated in ceremony to lower the flag on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. It was a thrill for him and his entire family. His wife of 69 years, his daughter, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren were all there to see and experience it. It remains one of my favorite memories.

As you might imagine, my grandfather was extremely patriotic. His home always flew America’s Flag. A few years before he died, I requested that a flag be flown the over US Capitol in his honor, which I then gave to him for Christmas. It still brings tears comes to my eye when I recall that this flag adorned his casket at his request.

However, even though he loved this country, he would also have been the first to tell you that our nation was not perfect. I believe he felt his sacrifices in World War II were intended to be a gift to generations to come, with the hope that America would continue to become a place that lived out the ideals upon which the nation was founded. As someone who studied history, he would even remind us that our country has not always followed its deals and that would include even our founding fathers.

I guess remembering this is what made me think about a couple of hymns Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written for patriotic celebrations.

Carolyn is a PCUSA minister and musician. She is an immensely talented (and avid) hymn writer. While she is quite accomplished and her biography will tell you more, what I love most is how she takes familiar hymn tunes and puts new words with them in order to speak to our current contemporary context and the Biblical text with equal power.

One of the hymns I am thinking of talks of the beauty of our land and the other hymn celebrates those working to make it a more perfect union. Both hymns call us to be faithful to the ultimate ruler of our lives—God who is the creator, redeemer and sustainer whose Kingdom awaits us. And whom my grandfather served every day of his life. And my greatest hope and joy is that this kingdom is where we will all be reunited with that great cloud of witnesses including my grandfather, Sergeant Buford Lee Burton (Grandaddies). I believe he will be pleased I shared these hymns with you on July 4, 2020—244 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed and this new great experiment called the United States of America was born.

For This Land in All Its Wonder

Tune ("God of Grace and God of Glory")

For this land in all its wonder, for each city, farm and town, For each mountain filled with splendor, for each place where love is found, For the freedoms we enjoy here, God, may thanks to you abound! God, may thanks to you abound!

For your peace and love unending, breaking barriers that divide; For the joy of cultures blending as we live here side by side; God, we thank you and we pray now: May we all be unified! May we all be unified!

For your hand to lead and guide us, for your work in history, For your vision born inside us of a just society, God, we thank you and we pray now: May this vision come to be! May this vision come to be!

May we be a nation seeking ways that are both wise and fair, May our living and our speaking serve your purpose everywhere. May we follow where you lead us; God, this is our hope and prayer! God, this is our hope and prayer!

Text: Copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette Tune: John Hughes, 1907 ("God of Grace and God of Glory")

O God, We Thank You for This Land

Tune ("Eternal Father, Strong to Save")

O God, we thank you for this land and for the good on which we stand: for people down through history who sought to make us kind and free, for immigrants from every place who built this land with strength and grace.

We thank you, God, for people here who work to counter hate and fear; who work for justice for the poor; who seek to bring an end to war; who love the water, land and air and work for your creation's care.

We thank you, too, for those who pause to see and challenge unjust laws; for those whose vision leads the way to bring a gentler, nobler day; for those who answer your great call to value, love and welcome all.

As we give thanks for this our land, may we, with others, take a stand: May we a justice-vigil keep, and never let our conscience sleep; For silence is complicity, and all are bound till all are free.

Text: Copyright © 2019 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.

Tune: John Bacchus Dykes, in Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861 ("Eternal Father, Strong to Save")

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