I bought a book recently written by Benjamin M. Stewart called A Watered Garden. It was the book’s subtitle, Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology, that drew me to it. I was curious how the author would connect worship and ecology. In the book’s first chapter Stewart writes, “…ecology and Christian worship both extend outward toward ‘everything,’ to attend to the worth of things, their interconnections with things seen and unseen, and their place in the whole living creation. Their consideration together in a single theme is no novelty, but rather a natural partnership. Both are, in fact, ways of seeing everything as part on the one great whole.”
I cannot help but agree that worship and ecology form a natural partnership. When I spend time in nature, or even just study about it, I am often moved to offer worship to the God of Creation. My love and appreciation for nature has long been a vital part of my life and spirituality. For me, nature and the study of ecology are conducive to worship.
Any observant student of the Scriptures realizes that nature has played a pivotal role in worship from the very beginning. God first makes Himself known to humans in a garden setting and there they learn that He is worthy of worship. From Genesis to Revelation there are countless instances where nature comes into play, one way or another, in God’s revelation of Himself and in humankind’s response of worship.
In our worship service at church this morning there was no special emphasis but I noticed that the connection between worship and nature made a number of appearances. The first hymn we sang was “How Great Thou Art.” The words of the second verse are: “When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze; then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art!” Shortly after this hymn we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together asking that God’s name be hallowed and that His kingdom come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the children’s sermon the kids learned about how God used Moses to part the sea so the Hebrews could escape the pursuing Egyptians. Among other things, this story teaches that God is Lord and Master of Creation. Following the offering we sang together the “Doxology”: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below; praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Here we are reminded that God is the Giver of all good gifts and that we, along with “all creatures here below” are called upon to praise Him.
The sermon I preached focused on Hebrews 11. Although I did not talk about this particular verse we all read together the words: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command…” (v. 3) In a chapter that highlights the importance of faith and faithfulness we were reminded that a central belief for Christians is the affirmation of God as Creator.
We ended our service today by singing a chorus based on Psalm 118:24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Here again was one last reminder that every day is a gift from God and that He is to be honored and worshipped as the Creator.
Perhaps there are some Sundays when we don’t have quite so many overt references to God and nature but it’s almost impossible to imagine a worship service without the connection being made in some form or fashion. They are, after all, natural partners.
(I took the top image at Broke Leg Falls in Kentucky and the bottom two images in northern California.)