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PSALM 33| “THIS LAND IS GOD’S LAND”

July 2, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

“THIS LAND IS GOD’S LAND”

PSALM 33

JULY 1, 2018

 

THE DESCRIPTION OF GOD IN THE 33RD PSALM I JUST READ MAY SEEM A BIT ARCHAIC, ANACHRONISTIC, EVEN A BIT CHILDISH TO SOME OF US:

 

“THE LORD LOOKS DOWN FROM HEAVEN; HE SEES ALL HUMANKIND.

FROM WHERE HE SITS ENTHRONED HE WATCHES ALL INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – HE WHO FASHIONS THE HEARTS OF THEM ALL AND OBSERVES THEIR DEEDS.”

 

BUT, MAYBE, IT’S NOT SUCH A BAD IDEA TO THINK OF GOD IN THAT WAY SOMETIMES…

 

LIKE LOOKING AT THE VAST COSMOS IN WHICH WE LIVE AND REALIZING HOW INFINITESIMALLY SMALL WE REALLY ARE IN THE GREAT SCHEME OF THINGS.

 

MAYBE IT WOULD DO US SOME GOOD TO THINK GOD – THE BIG GOD – IS WATCHING NOT ONLY OVER US, BUT ACTUALLY WATCHING OUR WORDS, DEEDS AND ACTIONS – THE OLD ALL-SEEING EYE OF GOD.

 

SOME SANCTUARIES USED TO INCORPORATE THIS IDEA INTO THEIR STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS – THE EYE OF GOD WATCHING FROM THE FRONT OF THE SANCTUARY;

 

THE EYE OFTEN APPEARING IN A TRIANGLE AND PAINTED IN SUCH A WAY AS IF TO SEEM TO BE FOLLOWING YOU WHEREVER YOU MOVED IN THE SANCTUARY.

 

MAYBE IT’S NOT SUCH A BAD IDEA THAT GOD IS WATCHING OUR EVERY MOVE, AND NOT JUST OUR MOVES AS INDIVIDUALS, BUT AS NATIONS, AS THE WORLD.

 

“A KING IS NOT SAVED BY HIS GREAT ARMY;

A WARRIOR IS NOT DELIVERED BY HIS GREAT STRENGTH.

THE WAR HORSE IS A VAIN HOPE FOR VICTORY,

AND BY ITS GREAT MIGHT IT CANNOT SAVE.

 

TRULY THE EYE OF THE LORD IS ON THOSE WHO FEAR HIM,

ON THOSE WHO HOPE IN HIS STEADFAST LOVE,

TO DELIVER THEIR SOUL FROM DEATH, AND TO KEEP THEM ALIVE IN FAMINE.

 

OUR SOUL WAITS FOR THE LORD; HE IS OUR HELP AND SHIELD.

OUR HEART IS GLAD IN HIM, BECAUSE WE TRUST IN HIS HOLY NAME.

LET YOUR STEADFAST LOVE, O LORD, BE UPON US, EVEN AS WE HOPE IN YOU.”

 

THE 33RD PSALM IS GREAT BECAUSE IT BEGINS AND ENDS PRAISING GOD;

BUT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, IS A REMINDER THAT GOD IS GOD, AND WE ARE NOT; THAT GOD IS IN CHARGE, AND WE ARE NOT;

 

THAT GOD IS WATCHING OUR EVERY MOVE, AND THE MOVEMENTS OF NATIONS; AND THAT FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.

 

AND THAT ALL OF IT – ALL OF IT, AND EVERYONE IN IT, BELONGS TO GOD.

 

“BY THE WORD OF THE LORD THE HEAVENS WERE MADE,

AND ALL THEIR HOSTS BY THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH.

HE GATHERED THE WATERS OF THE SEA AS IN A BOTTLE;

HE PUT THE DEEPS IN THE STOREHOUSES.

LET ALL THE EARTH FEAR THE LORD;

 

LET ALL INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD STAND IN AWE OF HIM.

FOR HE SPOKE, AND IT CAME TO BE; HE COMMANDED, AND IT STOOD FIRM.”

 

IT IS VERSE 12 THAT APPEARS ON OUR BANNER FOR THIS MORNING; THE BANNER WE USE AROUND TIMES OF NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:

 

“BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS LORD…”

 

THE WORDS SUGGEST BOTH BLESSING AND RESPONSIBILITY; BOTH APPROVAL AND ACCOUNTABILITY.

 

A MONTH OR SO AGO, THE LAST TIME WE USED THIS BANNER, FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, I WAS SITTING LISTENING TO OUR WONDERFUL CHOIR SING THE ANTHEM: AMERICA!

 

IT IS JOE LOWE’S ADAPTATION OF WORKS DONE BY OTHER ARTISTS.

 

YOU MAY RECALL IT TOO.  IT COMBINES SEVERAL OF OUR NATION’S FAVORITE SONGS: AMERICA; THIS IS MY COUNTRY; THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND; AND GOD BLESS AMERICA;

 

AS WELL AS, THE WORDS FROM THE BASE OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY.

 

WHILE I SAT THERE LISTENING TO THE CHOIR SING…

 

(WHICH, BY THE WAY, IS HOW MINISTERS WORSHIP – WHAT WITH LEADING OR DOING ALL THE REST OF THE SERVICE – THE ONLY CHANCE WE REALLY GET AS MINISTERS TO WORSHIP, IS WHEN THE CHOIR IS SINGING…)

 

ANYWAY, AS I WAS LISTENING TO THE ANTHEM BEING SUNG, WHAT STRUCK ME WERE SOME OF THE WORDS OF THOSE VARIOUS SONGS I MENTIONED A MOMENT AGO;

THE TRADITIONAL WORDS WHICH WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE, TO BE SURE, AND WHICH WE SING WITH GREAT MEANING, PRIDE AND GUSTO…

 

BUT ALSO, SOME LESS PERCEPTIBLE WORDS, AS WELL AS A WORD CHANGE IN THIS PARTICULAR ANTHEM.

 

OF THE LESS PERCEPTIBLE WORDS – THESE: THE WAY IN WHICH THIS IS MY COUNTRY MAKES A CHANGE FROM VERSE 1 TO VERSE 2:

 

VERSE 1 – “THIS IS MY COUNTRY, LAND OF MY BIRTH…”

VERSE 2 – “THIS IS MY COUNTRY, LAND OF MY CHOICE…”

 

NOT ALL OF US WERE BORN HERE; SOME OF US, ALL OF US, ACTUALLY, CHOOSE TO BE HERE.

 

AS FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ONCE SAID:

 

“UNLESS YOU ARE A NATIVE AMERICAN, YOU CAME FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE; SOMEONE BROUGHT YOU HERE.”

 

I REMEMBER IT WAS AROUND THANKSGIVING ONE YEAR.  A COUPLE IN THE CHURCH I WAS SERVING AT THE TIME WAS TALKING ABOUT THEIR FAMILY THANKSGIVING.

 

THE HUSBAND AND FATHER OF THIS PARTICULAR FAMILY WAS A MAN OF MANY WORDS: HE LOVED TO TALK; TO TELL STORIES; TO REPEAT STORIES YOU HAD ALREADY HEARD A HUNDRED TIMES BEFORE.

 

ON THIS PARTICULAR THANKSGIVING, JUST BEFORE SAYING GRACE, HE STOOD AT THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY TABLE, REMINDING EVERYONE SEATED THERE, OF HOW HIS FAMILY HAD COME OVER ON THE MAYFLOWER;

 

HE REGALED THEM WITH GREAT TALES OF THEIR FOREFATHERS, IN DETAIL, WHILE THE FOOD GREW INCREASINGLY COLD;

 

WHEN HE FINALLY FINISHED, HE ASKED THOSE ASSEMBLED TO BOW THEIR COLLECTIVE HEADS; BUT BEFORE HE COULD BEGIN THE PRAYER, HIS WIFE STOOD UP AT THE OTHER END OF THE TABLE:

 

“GEORGE,” SHE SAID, THAT WAS A WONDERFUL STORY ABOUT YOUR ANCESTORS COMING OVER ON THE MAYFLOWER, BUT JUST REMEMBER, MY FAMILY WAS HERE TO GREET THEM WHEN THEY ARRIVED.”

 

AND WITH THAT, SHE SAT DOWN IN DEAFENING SILENCE.

 

MOST OF US CAME FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE; SOMEONE BROUGHT US TO THESE GREAT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

 

BACK TO THE ANTHEM AGAIN:

 

AND THESE LESS PERCEPTIBLE WORDS, BURIED IN THE MIDST OF THE ANTHEM:

 

“GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES

YEARNING TO BE FREE, THE WRETCHED REFUSE OF YOUR TEEMING SHORES,

SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST TOSSED TO ME.

 

I LIFT MY LAMP BESIDE THE GOLDEN DOOR!”

 

THESE, OF COURSE, ARE THE WORDS AT THE BASE OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY ACROSS THE HARBOR FROM ELLIS ISLAND WHERE MANY OF OUR NATION’S IMMIGRANTS FIRST ENTERED THE COUNTRY.

 

AND THEN, IN THE ANTHEM, THIS WORD CHANGE.  IN THE POTION THAT IS SUNG AS GOD BLESS AMERICA – THIS CHANGE – “BLESS GOD AMERICA, MY HOME SWEET HOME…”

 

BLESS GOD AMERICA – THE SORT OF PRAISE AND BLESSING SUGGESTED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 33RD PSALM:

 

“REJOICE IN THE LORD, O YOU RIGHTEOUS.  PRAISE BEFITS THE UPRIGHT.

PRAISE THE LORD WITH LYRE; SING TO HIM A NEW SONG;

BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS LORD…”

 

AS MUCH AS WE BELIEVE THAT GOD BLESSES AMERICA, AND ALL NATIONS, FOR THAT MATTER, IT IS RIGHT FOR US ALSO TO: BLESS GOD, AMERICA.

 

FINALLY, IN THE ANTHEM FOR THAT MORNING WERE THE WORDS FROM THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND.

 

WRITTEN BY WOODY GUTHRIE IN 1940 THE SONG WAS MEANT AS A TRIBUTE TO AMERICA’S BEAUTY, BUT IN IT’S ORIGINAL LYRICS, ALSO AS A CRITIQUE OF WALLS AND NO TRESPASSING SIGNS TO KEEP PEOPLE OUT; AND LINES OF POOR, HUNGRY AMERICANS WAITING IN RELIEF LINES FOR FOOD.

 

IN THE AMERICA! ANTHEM SUNG BY THE CHOIR THERE ARE A FEW MINOR WORD CHANGES HERE AS WELL, JUST SOME UPDATING OF THE PLACES THE WANDERING SINGER SINGS OF;

 

AND OF WHICH WE WILL SING IN A MOMENT, WITH PETER, PAUL, AND MARY USING THE MORE TRADITIONAL WORDING;

 

BUT WHAT THE 33RD PSALM REMINDS US IS, THAT IN ADDITION TO THIS LAND BEING YOUR LAND, THIS LAND BEING MY LAND; IS THAT, THIS LAND IS ALSO GOD’S LAND.

 

ACTUALLY, FIRST, AND FOREMOST, THIS LAND, ALL LANDS, OUR PEOPLE, ALL PEOPLE, BELONG TO GOD.

 

IT IS GOD WHO HAS CREATED IT ALL; AND ALL OF US AS WELL;

 

AND WHEN WE BEGIN TO SPEAK OF US AND THEM; ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO THIS NATION OF OURS:

 

LET’S REMEMBER THAT WE WHO ARE US, USED TO BE THEM;

 

UNLESS, LIKE THE WOMAN AT THANKSGIVING, OUR PEOPLE WERE HERE TO GREET THEM WHEN THEY ARRIVED.

 

THERE’S GREAT INTEREST IN, AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS BEING SPENT EACH YEAR NOW ON THESE HOME DNA TEST KITS THEY ADVERTISE ON TELEVISION FROM COMPANIES LIKE ANCESTRY.COM AND THE LIKE.

 

PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW WHERE THEY CAME FROM; THEIR GENETIC HISTORY.

 

ON THE COMMERCIALS, PEOPLE ARE OFTEN SURPRISED THAT THEY AREN’T FROM THE PARTICULAR ANCESTRY WHICH THEY ALWAYS THOUGHT;

 

OR ARE NOW, SUPPOSEDLY, ABLE TO EXPLAIN WHY THEY ARE WHO THEY ARE BECAUSE OF THEIR PARTICULAR ANCESTRAL BLOODLINE.

 

THIS IS ALL PROBABLY MORE HYPE THAN REALITY, AND DEPENDING UPON WHICH STUDY YOU READ, PERHAPS THE GREATER REALIZATION TO BE HAD IS THIS:

 

GENETICIST SUGGEST THAT OUR DNA – YOURS AND MINE AND THEIRS – WE ARE ALL SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 99.5 TO 99.9 % EXACTLY THE SAME!

 

AS MY FATHER USED TO SAY, RATHER COLLOQUIALLY, “PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT.”

 

MEANING – IT’S TRUE.

 

WE ARE FAR MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER, AND IT MIGHT BE NICE IF WE REALIZED THAT, TREATED EACH OTHER ACCORDINGLY, AND THOUGHT OF OURSELVES MORE AS FAMILY TO ONE ANOTHER;

 

THAN US VERSUS THEM.

AND THE DEVIL IN ME WANTS TO REMIND US HERE, WHAT THE PSALMIST SAYS:

 

REMEMBER – GOD IS WATCHING OUR EVERY MOVE; AND THAT OF THE NATIONS, AND OF THE WORLD.

 

AND, IF THERE’S HELL TO PAY FOR HOW WE ARE TREATING ONE ANOTHER, THAT PUNISHMENT IS LIKELY TO BE EXACTED IN THIS LIFE RATHER THAN THE NEXT.

 

SO, IN A MOMENT, WHEN WE SING THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, ALONG WITH PETER, PAUL AND MARY – IN A SORT OF HOOTENANNY STYLE, FOR THOSE OF US OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER SUCH, MAYBE WE OUGHT TO SLIP IN A:

 

THIS LAND IS GOD’S LAND EVERY SO OFTEN, AS A REMINDER OF WHOSE LAND THIS REALLY IS;

 

AND WHOSE PEOPLE WE REALLY ARE.

 

AS CITIZENS OF THIS NATION, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, AS PEOPLE OF GOD, MAY I REMIND US AGAIN, OF WHAT A BLESSING AND A RESPONSIBILITY;

 

WHAT AN APPROVAL AND ACCOUNTABILITY;

 

WE HAVE AMERICANS, AND AS CHRISTIANS, TO PRAISE GOD;

 

TO GIVE THANKS FOR OUR NATION;

 

TO LIFT UP THE WORLD;

 

AND TO TREAT ONE ANOTHER AS FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY OF GOD.

 

ONCE MORE FROM PSALM 33:

 

“FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD IS UPRIGHT,

AND ALL HIS WORK IS DONE IN FAITHFULNESS.

HE LOVES RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE;

THE EARTH IS FULL OF THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD.

 

BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS LORD.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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