As our family prepared to depart from France, we arrived in Paris on 7 January. As we checked into our hotel, we saw a television monitor with scenes from the attack at Charlie Hebdo. At that moment, the gunmen were still at large and believed to be northeast of Paris in the direction where we were staying. Police presence was heavy that day and again at the airport as we departed the next day. This was a chilling reminder that hostility still permeates much of our world.Just a few days before, while in Normandy, our family visited the American, German, and British cemeteries. (I will post about our experiences there in the coming days.)
While at the cemeteries, I reflected on one of my favorite hymns, “This Is My Song, A Hymn of Peace.” While serving as a pastor in the United States, I often included this hymn in our worship on the Sunday closest to July 4, when Americans celebrate the founding of the country.
The hymn reminds me that many people from many countries love their homelands, and it calls people to peace that transcends national borders.
Some stanzas were written by Lloyd Stone in the years between World Wars I and II. Other words were written by Georgia Harkness, a United Methodist theologian and, like me, a graduate of Boston University. The hymn, which is set to the tune Finlandia, says:
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:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.
Given the recent events in France, the prayer of this song is especially fitting. May it be so.