Rev. Drew Stockstill
You Renew the Face of the Earth
Monday, May 4, 2020 In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. O God, make speed to save us; O Lord, make haste to help us.
"You Renew the Face of the Earth" (104:30). Barbara Wolff
Scripture Reflection Psalm 104 This week we begin our, “Emerge,” devotions, reflecting on the first great emergence: when all Creation first emerged at God’s command. As we hope and pray about how and when we will emerge from stay-at-home orders and return to work and social lives, to church and family gatherings, we have the invitation to look forward, to see if we can perceive what new thing God is doing in and through us today. We can do much more than “get back to normal,” for getting back is a physical impossibility, without a time machine. Creation is a place that Bible scholar, Bill Brown, says, “intermixes tragedy and triumph, death and life, decay and regeneration. It is full of ‘woe and weal’ (Isa 45:7), and necessarily so for the kind of world that we have. The clockwork universe is dead, and in its place is the complex, fuzzy, dynamic, and opaque real world. It is a world that is continually emergent and openly innovative, in which the smallest factor, if exercised at the right moment, can bring about large-scale changes: the flap of a butterfly’s wing, a quantum fluctuation, or a flash of inspiration.” Or, as in our case, a virus. The Creation on the one hand, is a story of our primordial past, yet, on the other hand, it’s a story that demands us to explore our present – a world of new life unfolding around us with God as master gardener and carpenter. When we are in the story of creation, we can truly only look at what is happening right now in awe, and look forward with wonder. It’s impossible to be in the story of Creation and look back nostalgically because before Creation there was NOTHING. What if we imagine ourselves to be in the middle of the story of Creation right now, in 2020? Because we are. Did you know that Genesis 1&2 is not the only place in the Bible that tells the story of Creation? Psalm 104 takes us on a poetic balloon ride over Creation. Many of our Jewish brothers and sisters read this psalm every day in their morning services. The people of God have at times in history been in such a season of emergence that they told the story of creation again, to help them remember what kind of God they follow, and give them hope that the God who created, also creates now, and to celebrate this life. That is what the Psalmist does in Psalm 104. You may wish to listen to the psalm sung in the original Hebrew by a group of traditional Jewish musicians.
I share some concluding thoughts below the Psalm.
Psalm 104 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, 2 wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, 3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, 4 you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. 5 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. 6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight. 8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. 10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, 15 and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rabbits. 19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens. 23 People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening. 24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works— 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!
Notice the celebration of all life within creation: wild and free as well as domesticated. Notice the way living and non-living life work together, with springs giving drink to every animal, branches giving homes to birds, grasses feeding cattle, earth giving humans food and wine, oil freshening our faces, rocks in the mountains giving refuge to rabbits. Even the darkness itself inviting animals of the forest to come creeping out. It’s both a complex and simple, with humans peacefully going about our work for the day and coming in to rest. It’s both realistic with roaring lions, doing what lions do, “seeking their food,” and yet it’s harmonious, as all Creation works together for the good of all Creation. This is not the image of the heavenly new Creation where lions lay down with lambs, it’s the celebration of this life that is emerging among us, and in it God is still actively providing for all God has made. It also gives us an image of Creation that we can work towards, where we curb our sinful abuse and exploitation of what God made for the good of all life. Where we find contentment in our work and our rest and joy in knowing all things have their place.
I invite you in reading and hearing Psalm 104, to do as the psalmist did in a season of emergence: tell the story of Creation in your life, just as it is now, as it continues to unfold, and may it be so.
Let us Pray:
Satisfy us with your love in the morning,
and we will live this day in joy and praise.
We praise you, God our creator, for your handiwork in
shaping and sustaining your wondrous creation.
Especially we thank you for
the miracle of life and the wonder of living…
particular blessings coming to us in this day...
the resources of the earth...
gifts of creative vision and skillful craft...
the treasure stored in every human life...
People of God, for what else do we give thanks? Add your own prayers of thanksgiving.
We dare to pray for others, God our Savior, claiming your love in Jesus Christ for
the whole world, committing ourselves to care for those around us in his name.
Especially we pray for
those who work for the benefit of others . . .
those who cannot work today . . .
those who teach and those who learn . . .
people who are poor . . .
the church in Europe. . . .
and those of this community: And for Dick Shepley and his family, the family of Ed Sherrick, Mary, Sharon and Tom Herrold, Duana, Brenda and Cliff, Bob, Rochelle, Karen and Steve, Barb and Butch, Sharron Blezard, Marcia, John and Susan, Rose, Phil and Alice, Stanley Hope, Jake, John, Julie, the nurses of our Medical Outreach Clinic and…
People of God, for what else do we pray? Add your own prayers.
As you cause the sun to rise, O God,
bring the light of Christ to dawn in our souls
and dispel all darkness.
Give us grace to reflect Christ’s glory;
and let his love show in our deeds,
his peace shine in our words,
and his healing in our touch,
that all may give him praise, now and forever.
God the Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit watch over us. Amen.