Mar 24 2013

Let the Earth Bless the Lord

Bernheim-Forest-spring-hToday is Palm Sunday.  Hopefully you had a chance in church today to reflect on the praise that was offered Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday long ago.  There are many interesting things about this event in Christ’s life.  For me, one of these is how when the crowd was shouting “Hosanna” some of the Pharisees complained and encouraged Jesus to rebuke his disciples.  His response was, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)  Do you think the stones would really have begun to praise God if the people had quieted down? Some would say “of course not, stones can’t cry out!” while others might not be so sure.  I find myself in the latter camp.

CR-Banff-NP-Vermillion-Lakes-reflections-(v)-This morning I came across a prayer in which all of Creation is invited to join in the praising of God.  Its source was identified as a “Medieval Prymer.”  If it sounds a bit fanciful to you, you might want to check out Psalm 148 where the Psalmist offers a similar call to worship.  This is the prayer I found: “Sun and moon, bless the Lord; fire and heat, bless the Lord; winter and summer, bless the Lord; frosts and cold, bless the Lord; ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise him and magnify him forever.  Nights and days, bless the Lord; light and darkness, bless the Lord; lightning and clouds, bless the Lord; praise him and magnify him forever.  Let the earth bless the Lord; mountains and hills, bless the Lord; all green things on earth, bless the Lord; praise him and magnify him forever.”

I like the thought of Creation offering God praise.  For starters, it just seems fitting.  I also like the thought because I realize that God deserves all the praise He can get and we humans—including myself—often fail to offer God the praise He is so worthy of.  It’s comforting to know that the sun and moon, the ice and snow, the light and darkness, the mountain and hills all bless the Lord when I fail to.

Gibbon-Rive-Ice-Bells-366I also see the thought of Creation always praising God as something of a challenge or source of motivation.  If Creation, which doesn’t have the same capacity to know and experience God as we do, can offer God wondrous and continuous praise, shouldn’t I be doing a better job of it myself?  As we journey through Holy Week this coming week, I encourage you to join me in attempting to offer God the very best praise you can.  When we pause to remember what this special week is all about, failure to do so would have to be considered both unacceptable and sinful.  Let us all join together with Creation in blessing the name of the Lord in the days to come.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky, the middle image at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and the bottom image at Yellowstone National Park.)


Jul 1 2012

Help From Blazing Lilies

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the Sunday prior to his crucifixion the crowds enthusiastically welcomed him.  This welcome bothered the Pharisees.  They told Jesus to rebuke the crowd.  Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)  In the past I always understood this to mean that if the people ceased their praise then the rocks would have to cry out for them.  I’m thinking now that Jesus may have been reminding the Pharisees of what their very Scriptures declared—that all of Creation offers its praise to God.  Stopping people from praising God would hardly cease the flow of praise that ushers forth every day.  Last night while reading Mary Oliver’s “Morning Poem” I was reminded just how true this is.  Here’s how the poem goes:

“Every morning the world is created.  Under the orange sticks of the sun the heaped ashes of the night turn into leaves again and fasten themselves to the high branches—and the ponds appear like black cloth on which are painted islands of summer lilies.  If it is your nature to be happy you will swim away along the soft trails for hours, your imagination alighting everywhere.  And if your spirit carries within it the thorn that is heavier than lead—if it’s all you can do to keep on trudging—there is still somewhere deep within you a beast shouting that the earth is exactly what it wanted—each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered lavishly, every morning, whether or not you have ever dared to be happy, whether or not you have ever dared to pray.” 

I want to believe that what Mary writes is true.  I want to believe that we humans are not the only ones offering prayers to God each day.  I want to believe this for a variety of reasons.  One of the main reasons is I would find great comfort in knowing that when my “spirit carries within it the thorn that is heavier than lead,” and finds it hard to offer God the praise He deserves, that God still receives the praise He is due.  I confess that my spirit carries such a thorn now so hopefully there is a blazing lily out there somewhere that can help take up the slack for me.  That would be nice.

–Chuck

(I photographed the top lily last month in North Carolina and the bottom one in New Mexico in May.)


Jul 13 2011

All Thy Works Shall Praise Thy Name

 

I have been in Nashville this week for the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Nashville is a nice city but I have to admit that I don’t really enjoy staying in “concrete jungles” where so much of the natural world I love is missing. Still, I’ve enjoyed being here, getting to see a lot of people I know and care for, and participating in some wonderful worship services.

One of the things I’ve been reminded of in our worship services here is how many hymns and praise songs make reference to God as Creator or to Creation itself. A few days ago we were singing the classic hymn by Reginald Heber,“Holy! Holy! Holy!”, and on the screen I saw the words “All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea. Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and Mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Other songs we have sung have echoed the call for all of Creation to join in offering praise and worship to God, the “Creator of heaven and earth.”

Recently I started reading Machael Abbate’s book Gardening Eden. Here he says “In His unfathomable wisdom, God designed everything in the universe to all work together in immeasurable complexity so that it could relentlessly glorify Him. As odd as it may sound, it is not just humans that are expected to recognize God’s power, wisdom, and love. Everything He created is intended to join in the chorus.”

The Scriptures certainly give evidence that all of Creation is meant to give God praise. Psalm 145:21 says “Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Elsewhere the Psalmist wrote, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it: let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.” (Ps. 96:11). The prophet Isaiah says “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (55:12) God told Job that at Creation’s dawn “the morning stars sang together” (38:7) and when the Pharisees sought to silence people giving Jesus praise as he entered Jerusalem he told them “I tell you, if my followers didn’t say these things, then the stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:40)

It would seem that the testimony of both the authors of Scripture and the hymns of our faith understood that all of Creation is meant to join in together offering God praise. What a shame it will be if we humans who were created in the image of God, and have the capacity to experience communion with Him like no other part of His Creation, fail to give Him the praise He deserves! Apparently the rest of Creation is doing its part. Are we?

–Chuck

 (I took the two pictures above on my trip to Hawaii this past April.)