Genesis 1:1-19 / Psalm 104:1-12
“Bless the Lord O my soul, O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness! You are clothed with majesty and splendor. You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak.”
Those wonderful opening lines of today’s Psalm 104. There is this amazing intimate relationship between God and creation. God wraps himself with light as with a cloak. So when we look at light we see something of God. And so with the cloud and the wind. They speak to us of God.
And this same relationship between God and creation is revealed in those opening verses of the beginning of the Book of Genesis. God creates the dry land and the sea, light and darkness, vegetation, plants, trees, seeds, fruit, birds, fish, cattle. And each time God saw that it was good. God creates with love and tenderness and in God’s image. The imprint of God’s very hand – the divine potter – is on everything he created. It is very good. This intimacy between creator and created is very important, because I know that the created world – the trees and flowers and birds, the sunshine – even the snow! – have the power to reveal God to us.
Martin Luther, whom we associate more with “sola scriptura”, wrote these remarkable words: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also in the trees and in the flowers and the clouds and the stars.”
And of course Jesus himself was intimately involved with the natural world. When he spoke of God and of God’s Kingdom he almost always pointed to the natural world around him: to seeds, the harvest, the clouds, vines, weeds, sheep, fire, water, mountains, lakes, birds, lilies, bread, wine. “Look at these – that God has created” – and they will teach you about the Kingdom.
Consider the lilies of the field: consider the ravens. The word used for ‘consider’ is a very strong Greek word, it doesn’t mean glance at, it means – stare at them: gaze at them. Let the lilies speak to you of the One who created them.
But we have lost touch with the power of the natural world to speak to us of God. We have become alienated from the natural world. Many of us live in cities. A survey recently found that the average American spends just 4% of the day outside! That’s pretty frightening. We actually fight against the natural world. Air conditioning, artificial light on all through the night. We separate ourselves from the natural world – we groan at the snow – the weather, which Genesis and the Psalms and Jesus himself see as channels of God’s grace – we often see as a nuisance, getting in our way. As our relationship with the natural world diminishes – our relationship with the virtual world of IPhones and Facebook increase.
The deepest danger is that we lose our sense of the sacredness of the world.
“The earth is charged with the grandeur of God.” So writes Gerard Manley Hopkins. What a sad loss, to lose the sense of God in God’s glorious creation.
I have just returned to the monastery from Emery House, which is a place whose natural beauty is a powerful revelation of God – a thin place. I will always remember a very special day there, a few years ago. It was in the summer and we had invited a whole group of youngsters from Chelsea, who were from low income families and were part of the B-SAFE summer program. Many of them had never been out of the city before, and their experience of food was really what came out of the supermarket. The day was about helping them learn and experience the wonder of creation and how food grows. They picked wheat and ground it into flour. They looked into a beehive and saw the honey. They dug potatoes, gathered eggs from the chicken coop, and at the end of the day everything they gathered was used to make pancakes!
The kids had the best time – they were full of wonder. Wow, they said. It’s the best day we’ve ever had!
There was something very sacred – holy about it. Something of God was I think glimpsed and revealed and enjoyed.
“God”, says Martin Luther, “writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also in the trees and the flowers, and clouds, and stars. – So maybe you might want to consider if you yourself have rather lost touch with God’s natural world, God’s wonderful creation. Maybe plan a visit to the country – to walk or run or to be still, and wrapt in awe. Or to simply go outside where you live, and gaze – at a tree, or a sunset, or the gently falling snow.
Walk out into God’s wonderful creation – and be touched by the very hand of God.
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