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Canada Day


Today marks the 155th year that Canada has been a country. Each time Canada Day comes around we have this opportunity to reflect, to celebrate and to give thanks for our nation. But if you are at all like me, you have some pause in your celebrations. Like the child of a wayward and ungodly father on Father's Day, we struggle with mixed feelings on this day. How do we as Christians show patriotism when our fatherland is so far from God the Father? How can we celebrate our land when our land is filled with violence and apostasy?

Without getting too in-depth about patriotism here, I would suggest that the Christian ought to still be patriotic, to still love their country, and even to celebrate it. But in light of our country's current state our celebration must be modified, it cannot be an exercise in willful blindness. So here are three simple ideas to modify our celebration of Canada Day. One refers to the past, one for the present, and one for the future.

1. Thank God for the past. Canada has received so much mercy and grace over decades and even centuries. What an incredibly blessed nation! Consider how God has provided for Canada as it has grown and developed. He has provided grain from the ground, fruit from the trees, iron ore and gold from the mountains, fish from the seas, and countless other good gifts. Our nation at many times recognized that blessing and gave thanks to God for it. We should as well. Give thanks for how our nation has flourished here for centuries.

But more than that, thank God for the legacy of faithful Christian witness in Canada. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with a recognition of the Supremacy of God, even in the very first line. Thank God for that. Many of our laws reflect God's moral law for we were a nation founded on Christian principles. Thank God for that rich heritage, it has blessed us more than we could ever know.

As I preached this morning on the streets of downtown Kelowna I reflected on our nation's motto. Do you know Canada's Motto? It is written in our coat of arms: Ad Mari Usque Ad Mare.

You can be excused for not knowing what that means – it is the Latin translation of part of a Bible verse, and simply means from sea to sea. It comes from this verse in Psalm 72:8,

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!

This verse is all about the rule of the Messiah, the great King, Jesus Christ. It is a Psalm all about the Davidic King, who would reign forever, and rule over the entire earth. And when choosing a motto our forebearers chose this verse. And while we don't know all of their thinking behind this, in God's providence they chose a motto that essentially cries out, "May Jesus be worshipped and honoured! May He rule from Nova Scotia to Tofino." And I thank God for that. What a rich heritage, what a perfect motto for our nation.

Or consider our national anthem. How many times has this great prayer been sung, "God keep our land, glorious and free"? Countless. And for that I give thanks. We should thank the Lord for the great Christ-honouring past of our country. It wasn't perfect then, and it has fallen greatly since, but still there is grace to be grateful for. Thank God for Canada's past.

2. Pray for mercy for the present. As we thank God for what this country once was, and the high ideals of our anthem, charter and motto, we can't help but mourn for how she has fallen. Canada has fallen from what she once was and what she once strived to be.

That much is obvious, isn't it? We are a nation filled with violence and wickedness. We are a nation that tolerates all manner of unrighteousness – from every form of sexual immorality to ghastly practices like abortion and assisted suicide. We make a mockery of human rights. In these last years we have violently trampled on the liberties that we once claimed to hold so dear. We consistently repeal everything that was such a rich part of our Christian heritage. Our country is "progressing" towards an anti-Christian paganism that tolerates everything but that which is good, true and beautiful.

Canada is apostate. Canada has fallen. But like Daniel reflecting on the downfall of Judah (in Daniel 9), we too should come to the Lord with sombre and earnest prayer for our nation. We can, with Daniel, plead for mercy and say,

"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day…because of the treachery that they have committed against you.

If you read the whole prayer, you will see that Daniel is confessing the sins of his nation and he is begging God for mercy. This is an appropriate response to the state of our nation as well. Lord have mercy on Canada. We can even pray the words of our great national anthem – "God keep our land, glorious and free". Although perhaps what we mean to say is – "God save our land, make us glorious and free once more."

3. Live with hope for the future. As we thank God for the past, and pray for our present state, we inevitably look ahead to what is yet to come. What is the future for Canada? I would encourage you to take the long view. While we might have years and even decades of trials ahead, let us remember that God has promised to save a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation – including Canada (Revelation 5:9-10).

And even more than that, we know that the mustard seed of Christ is growing, and the yeast of His kingdom is advancing even now, though we struggle to see it (Luke 13:18-21). He is the stone that struck the kingdoms of this world on the feet; and His kingdom is now growing to be a great mountain that fills the earth (Daniel 2). So do not just look to what is seen. God has plans for Canada yet. And we know that they are plans for our ultimate good and for the triumph of His gospel.

I mean, isn't that what our motto is all about? Isn't it a declaration of hope? A prayer for the increase of His kingdom?

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!

This is why you need to have hope. Even as you watch your country in a terrible decline, you know that the Lord Jesus will in the end rule this place from sea to sea. It is not just a prayer, it is a promise. As Isaiah wrote –

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it. (Isaiah 2:2)

So let us celebrate Canada Day as faithful Christians. We thank God for the past. We pray earnestly for our present. And we live with bright hope for the future. 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024