by Marjorie George
I was distracted for most of 1970. That was the year the first baby came; and while he was welcome, turns out that motherhood was a tad more demanding than I had anticipated.
So I barely noticed on April 22 when millions of Americans formed marches and rallies across the nation to bring attention to the plight of Mother Earth. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring about the misuse of pesticides had been published eight years earlier, and Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin pushed environmental awareness further onto the national agenda by organizing that first Earth Day, more than 50 years ago.
But this “fragile earth, our island home,” as The Book of Common Prayer has it (pg 370), has owned the respect of the psalmists from deep time. The very heavens declare the glory of God, acknowledges Psalm 19. “The skies proclaim the work of his hands” (vs 1).
It is the psalms of creation that present the majesty and power of God, echoing the creation story from Genesis. Read it again and notice the grandeur: “In the beginning the earth was void and formless.” God speaks and light comes forth. Plants and trees are created – with seed for procreation. Water organizes. Flying birds and creeping, crawling things, and wild animals of every kind are created by God. And then, the grand finale, humankind – created a little lower than the angels and crowned with honor and glory (psalm 8:5).
God has given mankind dominion over His works, thus we have a part in God’s continuing acts of creation. We are to be stewards of God’s creation – to be mindful how we use those plants and trees and flying birds and wild animals of every kind – to recognize that all of creation has been given by God and are creatures of God. As Joni Mitchell sang in the 1970s, we are to think before we “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Lest we forget, the psalmist reminds us that all creatures – that would be including you and me – are dependent upon God for breath and sustenance. If God hid his face from us, we would return to dust. But when we open ourselves to God’s spirit, we are renewed (Psalm 104: vss 27-30).
The psalms of creation also remind us that our God is a God of abundance. We, being accustomed to the ways of the world, fret and worry: Will my health hold up? Do I have enough money set aside for my retirement? Who will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?
And yet, we acknowledge that God:
Waters the mountains;
Provides food from plants and grass;
Makes wine for our pleasure;
Creates nests for birds and mountains for goats (psalm 104:13-15.
Even while we hear Jesus asking us:
“Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:28-30).
We forget that we are assured refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. We are invited to feast on the abundance of God’s house and drink from the river of God’s delights (psalm 36:7-9).
In his essay The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity (find it below under more resources) Walter Brueggemann argues that we have become a nation of consumerism because we live in the myth of scarcity:
“The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance. Genesis I is a song of praise for God’s generosity. It tells how well the world is ordered. It keeps saying, “It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good.” It declares that God blesses — that is, endows with vitality — the plants and the animals and the fish and the birds and humankind. And it pictures the creator as saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.” In an orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours from God’s creator spirit.”
But, continues Brueggemann, “We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us.”
What will be our response to this outpouring of God’s creative self? With the psalmist, we are invited to “sing to the Lord” as long as we live and meditate on God’s goodness (Psalm (104:33-34).
Read psalms 8, 95:1-7, 104 and any others you wish to read. List below. Or choose other psalms that remind you of God’s creation.
Questions for reflection.
Where do you most often encounter God’s creation?
Which of the creation psalms speaks to you the most? What images, words, and phrases resonate with you?
What does it mean to you that God is a God of abundance? When have you been the beneficiary of God’s generosity?
Where are you tempted to think in terms of scarcity? How could you live more in an awareness of abundance?
Psalms of creation. Use these links or your own Bible. Try reading different translations.
95: 1-7a (if you have a Book of Common Prayer, read the version on page 724-5)
The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity
The great contradiction of our time, says Walter Brueggemann, is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity. We simply do not believe there is enough to go around. The psalms of creation tell us otherwise.
Read the essay. It is rather long but worth it. Click the link below.
Return to Psalms Introduction and link to all pages in the study.