Today is Earth Day. We also observed Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church this morning. The hymns, Scripture readings, choral anthem and sermon all focused on God’s gift of Creation and our calling to be good stewards of it. The service was a meaningful one to me. One part I especially liked was the opening prayer offered by one of our deacons. During the prayer she thanked God for birds and acknowledged that God could have made only one type of bird but thanked him for making many. She went on to name several different species she was thankful for.
Following my sermon we sang a hymn that I doubt many people know. It’s called “For Beauty of Meadows.” It was written in 1969 by Walter H. Farquharson. Here are the words to the first verse: “For beauty of meadows, for grandeur of trees, for flowers of woodlands, for creatures of seas, for all you created and gave us to share, we praise you, Creator, extolling your care.” I like these words a lot for the writer, like the prayer noted above, offers God specific things in Creation he is thankful for.
Often around the season of Thanksgiving you will hear the hymn “Count Your Blessings” sung in churches. It is a reminder of our need to count our many blessings and how it helps to “name them one by one.” One way we might all observe Earth Day today is to not just offer God thanks for the earth that sustains us and manifests His glory but give Him a specific list of the things we are particularly thankful for. If you did that, what would be on your list?
Here are just a few of the things that would be one mine: the sun and moon; wildflowers, especially ladyslippers, Virginia bluebells and lupine; trees (the older the better); birds, particularly cardinals and bluebirds; mountains; rivers; grizzly bears; elk, glaciers and geysers; the northern lights; clean air; pikas; sea otters; whitetail deer; the wind; rain and snow; deserts; wolves; lichen; mushrooms, cacti; oceans; tide pools; butterflies; the stars; and slot canyons. I could go on and on. The longer I live the more I realize how much there is to be thankful for.
Needless to say, as important as being thankful for the many aspects of Creation is, it is just as important that we remember today our calling to be good and wise stewards of all that God has made. The last two verses of the hymn we sang this morning speak to this. They read: “As stewards of beauty received from your hand, as creatures who hear your most urgent command, we turn from our wasteful destruction of life, confessing our failures, confessing our strife. Teach us once again to be gardeners in peace; all nature around us is ours but on lease; your name we would hallow in all that we do, fulfilling our calling, creating with you.”
On this Earth Day I challenge you to offer God a prayer of gratitude for the specific things you are thankful for and also that you pledge yourself anew to being a good steward of the earth and its resources. Happy Earth Day to one and all!
(I took the top picture at Acadia National Park in Maine; the second one in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and the bottom two in Kentucky.)