On this 4th of July weekend, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts from G.K. Chesterton’s great hymn: “O God of Earth and Altar.” Chesterton had an ability to summarize the need of a nation. I think his words are rather applicable to our country this morning:
Chesterton writes after appealing to God for help: “O God… our earthly rulers falter.” Here is a statement we can all overwhelmingly affirm this morning. We have leaders who have become so accustomed to the status quo that their t-shirts read: “Keep Calm: No surprise here!” Our God throughout history is constantly changing the political class. When kings and rulers falter for too long, he replaces them. In God’s political cycle, there is never the status quo, there is always change and newness of life.
In verse 2, Mr. Chesterton observes that, “From lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men…” Have we not become so easily seduced by fancy political rhetoric? We are as a nation more prone to being drawn by political speeches than biblical language. The Gospel calls us to draw near, and we say, “Let me first hear the lies of tongue and pen of earthly rulers.” Chesterton says, “Deliver us, good Lord!” from this kind of fanaticism and blatant disregard of your call to your people. We are comforted by false things in this nation when the abiding truth is that only the Gospel promises true comfort.
Finally, Chesterton petitions God to “bind our lives together, smite us and save us all.” This is a bit of a Psalmic imprecation from Chesterton’s pen. He is longing for a form of death/resurrection in the lives of citizens. In other words, make us faithful citizens who wield a “single sword”, that is, “a united Gospel” to crush our dependence on earthly rulers and to satisfy our hunger in the divine king of all creation, Jesus Christ.
Our Declaration of Independence will only survive if our pride is taken away. Our freedoms will only last when the thunder of God is proclaimed, when the peoples clap their hands and sing for joy to a ruler who will never falter, never sleep, and never die. Let us pray to our God of earth and altar!