Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Canada"1 (Lyrics)
The name "Canada" is rooted in an Iroquois word "kanata" meaning "settlement" or "land". The land now known as Canada and the peoples who dwell in it are much older than the 150 years marked on July 1st in a sesquicentennial celebration.
During these days, those who devote a few moments to devotional meditation and prayer — whether in Canada or elsewhere, and whether Canadians or citizens of any other nation — would do well to ponder what it means to identify with a given land or people.
Christians are challenged and invited to form and hold a particular perspective on patriotism. We are told that "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." Jesus, worshipped by the angels as "King of kings" humbly declared, "My kingdom is not of this world," and while on earth sat not on a throne but hung on a cross, and wore no crown of jewels but one of thorns. The catalogue of the heroes of the faith delineated in the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that some of the greatest and most faithful were those who "went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated", of whom "the world was not worthy".
Yet we are also commanded to pray for sovereign rulers and all in authority over us, and we are to seek to live at peace with all people, insofar as it is possible.
For many years, July 1st was called "Dominion Day", and those marking it were encouraged to reflect on the verse of Scripture from which the name "the Dominion of Canada" was taken, suggested by one of Canada's Fathers of Confederation who had read Psalm 72 in his morning's devotional meditation:
Psalm 72:8a – He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. (KJV)
The land first belonged neither to people of first nations nor to later settlers, but to God who created heaven and earth and all that is in them. God first called Abraham to go to a land promised of which Abram knew nothing. Generations later, Abraham and Sarah's descendants were led out of slavery and oppression into a land of promise and plenty. The failure to honour the Creator and Sustainer of life led not only to loss and defeat, but to the appearance of Jesus as Redeemer to effect reconciliation.
Acknowledging God as God of the land, the people, and the nation is the foundation both for responsible, thankful celebration, and for real reconciliation. Reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, Christians are able to point the way forward in effecting reconciliation and building new community.
Prayer: Thanks be to You, O God, for the gift of our land and all who dwell in it. Thanks be to You for those who in generations past have acknowledged Your dominion. Forgive us for usurping Your rule and asserting our own. Forgive us for the hurt done to others, and heal the hurts yet borne. For the reality and the hope of reconciliation to You through Jesus, we give You thanks. For Canada and all its peoples, and all who have lived and worked and served and died and whose contributions have brought us to these days of commemoration and celebration, we give You heartfelt thanks. Enable us to pray for those who govern us, and to work as reconcilers, that we may dwell in peace among all people. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.