'What a wonderful world ...'

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

Thousands of years ago the Psalmist David declared: "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (Ps. 33:5). One might wonder, Was that statement true then, but not now?

Just take a quick perusal of today's headlines. It would be easy to buy into the sense of foreboding that often hangs over television newscasts, economic forecasts, and everyday conversations. Yet that temptation should be resisted. Even in today's strangely woven world, those glorious words from the Old Testament are still valid, still predictive of what must inexorably come to pass "in earth, as it is in heaven."

Last year, on a bright summer Sunday, a terrorist attack on a hotel in Indonesia took 12 lives and wounded nearly 150 innocent people. Halfway around the world in Boston, people on the streets went about their daily business, but one could tangibly feel in the air sadness and uncertainty about the future.

That evening across the river in Cambridge, however, a small congregation of the United Church of Christ gathered for its evening service. People sat in chairs in a semicircle and participated in informal worship, sharing thoughts and prayers about the day's events. A jazz trio played its interpretation of traditional hymns.

At the end of the service, one of the musicians, a professor at one of Boston's leading music schools held his worn bass violin at an angle against his chest and said how difficult it had been to find the right music to play that evening. In light of the day's events, he had wondered what he could share that would best express his feelings and bring a healing message. He chose one of his favorite songs, made famous by the great Louis Armstrong.

He began to pluck out the notes, and in his deep, sonorous voice, sang:

I see trees of green, red roses, too

I watch 'em bloom for me and for you

And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.

This modern-day psalm could not have seemed more eloquent, nor more meaningful, on that day of tragedy. Despite the day's news reports, this man had chosen to focus on the light of beauty and goodness - actually God's present goodness - in the world.

Somehow, this small tribute to goodness, which has its source in the unfailing love of God, illustrates how the divine influence - the Christ - makes itself felt in human affairs, regardless of how dire circumstances appear to be. The Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, explains how this fact becomes reality in our lives: "As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of good. One must hide the other. How important, then, to choose good as the reality!" (pages 480-481)

That evening last year, the small gathering of Christians in Cambridge was living the truth of that statement. They were experiencing the transforming power that "choosing good as the reality" brings to the world, even when it seems to be filled with chaos. There is a spiritually scientific basis for such practice - the eternal law of God's goodness - which asserts that despite any situation, God's warm and wonderful love is always present, everywhere.

Consistently holding to this fact is a form of prayer. It lifts thought out of despair into a higher, more spiritual place. It brings us tangible comfort and the impetus to rebuild lives.

Without trivializing or dismissing the pain that many people were suffering that day, the musician and the people in that church chose to witness and give praise to the glory of God and to His entire creation. And although this modern "psalm" wasn't from the Bible, or written more than 5,000 years ago, its message seemed to convey the same healing acknowledgment as David's declaration that "the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord."

Perhaps that's why, as the evening ended, music and tenderness, not sadness, hung in the air. Together, everyone joined in, singing the last verse:

I see friends shakin' hands, sayin', "How do you do?"

They're really sayin', "I love you,"

And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.

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