“O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” (ELW 888)
1 O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain:
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
2 O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life:
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine.
3 O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears:
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
Today is July 4th, our national Independence Day. During this year of Covid-19 restrictions, I suspect it will be like no other. Will we be able to gather for celebratory parades? For picnics? To honor our veterans, “who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life” (stanza 2)? To watch colorful fireworks? How much we long for the return of our traditions. For healthy, healing rituals of togetherness.
Katherine Bates, a young English professor, made the treacherous trip by horse-drawn wagon and mules to the top of the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. Inspired by the view, she described the sea-like expanse of the plains, the beauty of the mountains of her beloved America.
Her poem, penned during the severe economic downturn of 1893, expresses not only joy but also her awareness and work on behalf of the poor and the indigenous peoples of America. She asks for “brotherhood from sea to shining sea” (stanza 1).
Gracious God, each day you shed your grace on us. Help us to be grateful, and show us how to love as you would love. Amen.