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.
Those of you who have been blessed to travel throughout this country have no doubt glimpsed some of these beautiful, God-given natural wonders. You’ve seen the spacious skies (especially, I’ve found, over Texas – somehow, even the sky is bigger in Texas!), fields of grain stretching as far as the eye could see, the rolling mountains of the east and the rocky peaks of the west, the shining Atlantic on one side and the shining Pacific on the other. These sights inspire us, take our breath away, and call our attention to the God who created them all.
What you might not know as well as those words or those sights are the words that come in a later verse of this same hymn, words that are fitting for this Memorial Day:
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 by nobleness, and every gain divine!
I’m struck by these lesser-known words of this lesser-known verse. As we celebrate another Memorial Day, we remember those “who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.” Mercy more than life!
Our scriptures repeatedly call our attention to mercy: the mercy God shows to us, the mercy God calls us to show to others. In Luke, Jesus tells us to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36, NRSV). In Matthew, he says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7, NRSV). From the prophet Hosea, we discover that what God wants from us more than perhaps anything else is mercy: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6, NIV).
In this season forever marked by COVID-19, I pray that we may be people who seek out opportunities to offer mercy, people who strive to act with compassion. While social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders may change what it looks like to be people of mercy and compassion, that does not change who we are as people of mercy and compassion.
On this Memorial Day, may you honor the memory of those who loved “mercy more than life,” and glorify the God who calls us to be people of mercy.
In honor of those who have served in our nation’s military, Keith’s choral students share this rendition of our national anthem.
After all, church:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
Want to know more?
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- View previous devotionals: https://wesleychurch.com/pastor-candys-devotionals-2/