world citizenship, and God’s heart for peace

worship at Brandon 2012
worship at Brandon 2012

Do your emotions ever take you by surprise? You know, that moment when things are humming along nicely and suddenly, wham-o, you feel the tears welling up and you’re like, “Crikey, where did that come from?”

It happened (again) Sunday morning, and I honestly didn’t see it coming. It turns out that I was deeply moved by the words of a hymn. Sure, it was one of those venerable old tunes – Finlandia – but it’s usually set to another set of verses. It must have been the words, and it’s taken me a couple of days to figure out why.

When I did figure it out, I realized that the way the hymn made me feel turns out to be the best explanation of my “more on this another time” comment back in Friday’s 28th American Birthday post:

That’s the short story, and only – it turns out – part one of the narrative. Because now, 28 years down the road, there’s an interesting tweak that I’ll probably share sometime in the next few days.

And so, Here’s “Part Two.”


CITIZENSHIP: ACT I – Here’s the short story: When I became a US citizen, I tried to confirm my new identity by eschewing anything that smacked of the ex-patriot approach to living abroad. I didn’t want to be tagged as English or to be thought of in any way as having a foot in both camps. I was an American, 100% – end of discussion.

ACT II – Then, many years down the road, I became comfortable enough in my American skin to celebrate my heritage. So it was OK to talk about the Queen, share my deep love for that lovely, inimitable island off the coast of Europe, watch soccer or explain the intricacies of cricket.

But then, more recently, ACT III has put a new spin on my idea of citizenship, and it goes like this:

ACT III –  I am, first, a Child of God. And I am – and this is vitally important – a citizen of Earth. Consequently, it doesn’t matter if someone is from the USA, Egypt, Australia, Sweden, China, Iran, Chile or South Africa; they/you are my brother, you/they are my sister.

This is not a political alignment (although there should be political implications) so much as it is a spiritual truth.

THE TRIGGER: However, and before I write anymore, here are the three verses of the hymn that caught me off guard in church this past weekend:

  1. This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine; this is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams my holy shrine.
  2. My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine; but other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
  3. This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms, thy kingdom come, on earth thy will be done; let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him, and hearts united learn to live as one. (This is My Song: Lloyd Stone, Georgia Harkness – Westminster John Knox Press)

A simple sentiment, not stated radically. But the power resident in the idea that “other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine…” The suggestion that it’s not all about us… that it’s not all about America… but that what it is all about is peace.

photographic world map – from

PLANET EARTH: I wonder how the “America is God’s new chosen nation” crowd would feel about singing a hymn like “This is My Song” in worship?

I love this country, its people and its (mostly) wide-open heart; and I’m so thankful to be a citizen of the USA. But I really don’t believe there’s any place for nationalism in the context of the community of faith. This is God’s Earth, and I’m convinced that God’s heart for peace is all about breaking down absolutely every barrier that has the potential to come between us – DEREK


  1. I am with you on this Derek. I am first of all a member of the kingdom of God. Secondly a citizen of God’ world. And then a citizen of the USA. Also I learned when I was in.Brazil that it is wrong to say that I am an American.,


  2. Yes, the whole “American” thing isn’t exclusive to the USA. But sometimes it’s useful shorthand! South America is still sometime in my future. Here’s to travel and adventure!


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