I’m just a poor, wayfaring stranger, traveling through this world of woe,
and there’s no sickness, toil or danger, to that bright land to which I go.
The congressional leaders who passed the Dawes Act of 1887 which in essence stole tribal lands from the natives so that they could be used be white settlers probably thought of themselves as powerful men. By the stroke of a pen these men (and they were all men at that time) condemned an entire group of people to poverty and early death in pursuit of their economic development efforts. I can imagine that these leaders had all sorts of ideas and plans for the future of that land, ideas and plans that they never likely saw to fruition, for in spite of their power to exercise control and oppress others, they too were subject to that power that always stares us in the face, the power of death.
The psalmist today reminds us that our lives are short, that “even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind.” That reality that faces us means that we shouldn’t waste a minute in pursuing the goals of the kingdom; that we have little time to be agents of God’s justice, and that we can’t wait until sometime later to achieve reconciliation.
Recognizing our limits of time also helps us to recognize our place in the world. How am I significant in the world’s order when compared to the tree across the street that is hundreds of years old? We do I think I can conquer the land and dominate it when the land, rocks, and water have been around far before I ever existed and will likely be here far after I’m dead and gone. From dirt with came and to the dirt we shall return, we say (more or less) at our funerals, and we shouldn’t get too proud of our abilities when we remember from where we can and to where we will return.
Of course, there is a future hope, which the song above refers to. That must be always before us, for sure, but we live here and now in this “world of woe” and while we are here let’s make every moment count.
Lord, may every moment in every day in every month in every year
count for your glory.