BY CLINT LOVEALL - FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF SPIRIT LAKE
In 1882, after graduating from Auburn Seminary in New York City, the Rev. Maltbie Davenport Babcock began pastoring the First Presbyterian Church of Lockport, New York. As a pastor, Babcock was reported to have a warm and welcoming presence and was considered a very gifted preacher. At one point, it was even said of him that "he was among the favorites of his denomination." He was, by all accounts, an outstanding minister, and would later go on to become the pastor of the prestigious Brick Church in New York City.
While in Lockport, Babcock would regularly walk along the scenic cliff that overlooks Niagara Falls. As he walked and encountered the majestic scenery, he would often be moved to write poetry or reflections on God, the beauty of nature, and the life of faith. His wife would later tell people that when he was leaving to take one of these frequent walks, he would tell her that he was going to spend some time in "The Father's world." In fact, he even titled one of his works, a 16 stanza poem, "This is my Father's World."
Babcock died tragically in Italy in 1901 on a return trip from the Holy Land at the age of 42, and later that same year, his wife released a collection of his writings which included "My Father's World." Several years later, in 1915, some of those stanzas were compiled and set to music by Babcock's close friend Franklin Shepherd. The result is one of the most loved hymns of American history and a song known to virtually any Christian that grew up in a hymn-singing church.
In particular, stanza 14 of Babcock's poem stands out to me. It is included in the 3rd verse of the hymn and proclaims, "This is my Father's world, O let me ne'er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet."
As we draw ever closer to a contentious election in what feels like one of the most divisive and divided eras of my lifetime, these are words worth remembering. In the midst of power struggles, pandemics, racial unrest, rioting, and accusations against virtually everybody, God is the ruler yet. Nothing changes that. Nothing and no one unseats God as divine ruler. Without question, the wrong of the world and even our own souls seems constantly on display in these strange times. There is ample fear, suspicion, judgement and even hatred that often seems to rule these days, but only God is God. Nothing can alter that simple and wonderful truth, God is the ruler yet.
May that truth continue to comfort and challenge us as we live out our faith in these crazy days. May our words and actions reflect that we know who truly rules and that we know we are called to love others in the name of His Son. May we hold on to the Good News when there is bad news all around us and may we proclaim with all our heart that nothing in our lives, or our world, can unseat God from the throne. God, and only God, is the ruler yet.