| The Lutheran Hour® - Canada
Rev. Warren Hamp, Faith Lutheran Church, Kitchener, Ontario
The Lutheran Hour - Canada Day - Psalm 72:8
A very blessed Canada Day (weekend) to you all!
We give thanks to God for His blessings graciously given to our home and native land, and we pray His continued favour on our whole country for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all.
Our text comes from the 72nd Psalm, verse 8:
May God have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
These Biblical words are the source for the inscription on the Canadian Coat of Arms. The inscription on our Coat of Arms has the motto in Latin: a mare usque ad mari - from sea to sea. These words were chosen as a tribute to the vastness of the of the great Dominion of Canada, stretching all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, from sea to sea. Recently, there has been a suggestion that the motto be expanded with an extra 'ad mari' - to include the Arctic Ocean, our third coast line - for our country actually stretches from sea to sea to sea!
These words on our Coat of Arms were also chosen to pay tribute to God, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. At the start, they were a confession, of sorts, that God is the One Who truly has dominion, Who reigns, from coast to coast, from Atlantic to Pacific, and to the Arctic too, and all places in between.
It is good to be reminded of that confession around Canada Day - the day that used to be called 'Dominion Day', long before my time. Being named the Dominion of Canada was a reminder of God's gracious and generous rule. And though the name of the holiday has changed, God has not.
God still daily and richly provides so much in our country. I am amazed when I drive through the lush, green farmlands of southern Ontario in the new green of June, or fly over the great expanse of wheat fields in Manitoba - and this year we pray for the many farmers in Manitoba whose land was under water from the flooding last month. Canada has world class cities full of unique and diverse neighbourhoods, where people from around the world have found their home. Opportunities for education abound in our colleges and universities, unrestricted by class, creed, or colour. Despite our complaints at times, we are blessed by God with free access to doctors and nurses and other health care professionals. And despite our national pastime of complaining about our government, the same God was pleased to give us another peaceful election this year, with order at the polling stations, no one getting shot, and freedom to vote as we wish.
God has shaped our land with such scenic beauty that one could spend her lifetime of holidays taking it all in. There's often more than enough to see and marvel at not far from your own front door. We are the envy of many places in this world. All these benefits are gifts to us from the hand of our generous and gracious God.
Thanks be to God for His dominion over our land from sea to sea - to sea!
Now I know that perhaps a lot of people won't agree with that thanksgiving. Some would say that there is no such God; or that if there is some such God, He really didn't have anything to do with the good gifts that Canadians enjoy.
And even those who might care to admit that there might be a 'God' out there somewhere still don't like this idea of DOMNINON. It sounds too controlling, too oppressive even. We don't need some God telling us how to run the show in this great country of ours.
Of course, the word 'dominion' does come from the word for master, dominus. And it's easy enough to jump from there to the idea of dominating, of excessive control, of a 'my way or the highway' management style. Since we already have enough people trying to run rough-shod over us sometimes, we don't need God to be some Lord and Master on top of it…
But I have some Good News for you about this dominion which this God would have from sea to sea - to sea. He does not come to dominate, not in the way you may have imagined. God's kind of dominion over us does not bring His demands, but His gifts; living under God's dominion means that we live not in fear or dread, but in the utmost security. God's dominion does not make Him a tyrant, and us His groveling slaves. God's dominion over you is not about His orders to you, His taking from you, but rather His giving up everything in order to have you.
You see, the same God Who shaped Canada, made it out of nothing, as He did the rest of His creation - for us, for you - became nothing Himself. That's right. The God Who provides us with so much came into His world with pretty much nothing at all provided for Himself. His virgin mother gave birth to Him in a borrowed shed. He grew up in the home of a humble woodworker, before the days of unions, when there weren't any weekends. His household probably lived well below the low-income-cut off line. This God Who took on our human body and heart and mind used all He had to give and to love. He taught that the One who would be great among us - the One who would have dominion - is the One who serves.
The dominion of God the Son, Jesus Christ, is not oppressive. Jesus uses His authority not to demand, but to show mercy. He told us that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God has a different way of doing dominion than you ever imagined. Jesus Christ has His dominion over you from the bottom ! Jesus Christ did not come into the world as some dictator telling you to shape up or ship out, telling you that He's the boss and you had better listen if you want to keep receiving the good you've received so far.
No, Jesus Christ came to bring you under the domain of His love. And His love is like no other. St. John the apostle wrote of Jesus: By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us. Jesus does not come to 'lord it over you'. Jesus comes into the world to be beneath you, for you, to lift you up. Jesus comes to be the Lord Who serves you. Jesus comes to buy you - as His own - with His very life.
Jesus lays down His life, because our lives have totally missed the target of what they ought to be. We have tried to be master of our own life and of the lives of others around us. We are the ones who have been domineering in the bad way. We have treated others as if we own them, and they should serve us. And, sadly, we also have been dominated by other people in our lives, those who did not want the best for us, but were only looking out for themselves.
Jesus Christ looks out for you. Jesus lived for others - all others. Jesus died for others - including you, including the people who have tried to control you, including the people you've tried to control. Jesus died for all. That's the price God paid in order to have you, in order to have all people as His own. That's the price God paid in order to have a new kind of dominion over you and me, over all of us from sea to sea, to sea.
Sometimes I have heard people say that, if you really want to be blessed, if you really want to be sure that you belong to this God Who made all, then YOU have to make Jesus to be Lord of your life.
But Jesus Christ doesn't become Lord because of what you do for Him. You can't make Him your Lord. Jesus isn't elected by your vote for Him. He is sent to serve and to love and to suffer and to die and to live again in order to be the Lord of you. He pays the price. He bought you. He made you His own. He doesn't receive His power from us giving it to him. God uses His power in order to give to us! He brings you into His dominion!
In fact, even though He is the Maker and rightful Owner of all, including Canada and every Canadian, Jesus really begins His dominion over us by first coming to be our Servant. For that matter, He continues to serve you, not just with all the good things that you may find in this great country of ours, but above all with His divine mercy that keeps you under His dominion - in the security of His forgiveness.
That's the best news you can celebrate this Canada Day weekend. For, despite all the hoopla, in spite of all the crowds, and no matter how many people you may or may not get together with this weekend, you still have some insecurity that only Jesus can handle.
There are always others - people, problems, past mistakes, present fears - that would like to keep you under their control.
I don't know what has dominion over you right now. It could be the pain in your body that makes every day too long and too hard. It could be the fight you had with your wife or your husband that is now weighing on your mind and dominating your thoughts and feelings. It could be the expectations of your family, that you are having hard time living up to. It could be those household debts that have been piling up, as what you earn each month just doesn't keep up with what you spend, and you are barely keeping afloat….
Even if none of those concerns is dominating you, even if you feel like you have everything going for you this Canada Day weekend, and nothing could go wrong - I must tell you that there is something wrong. It's something insidious, something we think we can hide or disguise, but something that will catch up with all of us. It is simply called sin and it ends in death.
No matter how hard we try to be what deep down we know we ought to be, no matter how much we may look to the people around us like 'perfect' Canadians, still we know our faults, we know our guilt, we know our failures. And they are real. The proof of their reality is that we die - all of us. Every great Canadian of the past has been given a grave. And even if we are not so great, we will be given one too. Death would have final dominion over us.
Death appeared to have the final say over Jesus Christ. He was given a grave, laid in a tomb. And if that were the end, if He were just some famous person of the past, some historic figure who had neat things to say, a guy you can quote to sound smart, or compassionate - if He were just another voice from the past - well, then I could have no good news for you today. Canada would still be a fine place to celebrate, but the celebration would be kind of empty, since it has a terminal end in sight.
But Jesus did not stay in the grave. Death did not have the final say over Him; He had the final say over death! Having died to take away the power of sin - your sin and my sin too - Jesus also claimed the victory over sin's cousin: death.
That's the best news you will hear this whole weekend! St. Paul shouts in out to you in some words he wrote to the Roman Christians: We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
That's your greatest celebration today. Since death no longer has dominion over Jesus Christ, death no longer need have dominion over you!
And He means YOU. His new dominon - His rule of life that has no end, and His reign of perfect love that you can trust right now - it's meant for everyone in this country too - from sea to sea to sea. Consider it yours! And the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ have dominion over you this Canada Day!
We close with the prayer of the third verse of our National Anthem:
Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer/keep our Dominion in Thy loving care/ Help us to find, O God, in Thee/ A lasting rich reward/ As waiting for the better day/ We ever stand on guard/ God keep our land/ glorious and free/ O Canada we stand on guard for thee/ O Canada we stand on guard for thee!
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