Songs and pictures have a way of inspiring emotion and passion in ways that the spoken word often fails to do. I find this true especially of prayer as well as in patriotic lyrics and the faces of those who serve in branches of our military – especially on holidays like today. The sung prayer of Irving Berlin named God Bless America surely helped people hold hope through World War I and before that America the Beautiful reminded Americans of the great gift of the land and the country that is ours.
I’m a fan of going beyond the first verse of any song. I get frustrated when hymn singing is truncated, leaving praise or messages about correct behavior hanging, incomplete. I say that with regard to patriotic songs as well as Church hymns. For instance, the fourth verse of How Great Thou Art takes us all the way to heaven but leaving off at the end of verse three can be deflating at best. (Just my opinion, of course.)
On this particular holiday, the best example of my argument is the aforementioned America the Beautiful. The refrain that begins each time with “America, America” is only the same in verses one and four. Great prayers are put forth in verses two and three, graces that we need as much as “brotherhood” (or sisterhood!). As a matter of fact, the entire verses are worth repeating here…so read on and see if you don’t agree.
- 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.
- O beautiful for Pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress a throroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness…America, America, God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self -control, thy liberty in law.
- 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 every gain divine.
- O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears…America, America, God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
Amen. God bless us all. Amen.