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Worshipping God the Creator: Creation speaks and Creation helps us give thanks

Wednesday August 24 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: Creation speaks and Creation helps us give thanks

I want to close this series on worshipping God the creator with my all time favorite hymn about Creation. It was written more than 300 years ago by Joseph Addison (1672-1719), and its age goes to show that God was speaking through nature a long time ago, just as God continues to speak now. (You can listen to it here.)

This hymn is a poetic paraphrase of the opening verses of Psalm 19. First the sun speaks, then as night falls, the moon and stars “take up the wondrous tale.” The exultant finale is the overall message from the skies, the content of the "wondrous tale": “The hand that made us is divine.” Whenever I sing or hear this hymn, or even just read the words, I find myself praying, “Yes, Lord God our Creator, I’m listening to the voice of nature speaking so clearly. You made such a beautiful earth and sky. Thank you.”

If you're not a lover of hymns, you can approach this as a poem, which of course it is.

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator's power display,
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth;
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll,
and spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball;
what though nor real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found;
in reason's ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice,
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

I want to give you a bonus hymn, another favorite hymn of mine and another beautiful poem, written in 1864 by Folliot S. Pierpoint. (You can listen to it here.) The progression of logic in this one is also worth noting: the poet thanks God for the beauty of the earth in the first two stanzas, then moves on to thank God for our senses that enable us to perceive the earth’s beauty.  Next he thanks God for human love and the church, and then lastly for God’s precious presence with us and love poured out on us.

This hymn captures the reality for so many of us. If we stop our frenzied productivity and busyness for a moment, we can then notice something beautiful about creation. We thank God for it, and then, if we stop our busyness a bit longer, we easily move into thanking God for other gifts of daily life, and ultimately for God’s great gift of love and presence. This sequence illustrates the way we depend on nature to jump start prayers of thankfulness and praise. Praise God for the beauty of creation that helps us in this way.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

This is the last post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
     The good creation         
     Creation care         
     Voluntary simplicity           
     Voluntary simplicity in action         
     Bill's story        
     Co-creators with God        
     Two quite diverse stories         
     A powerful quotation, some scriptures and a hymn    

(Next week I begin a new series: "Quotations I love." I'll begin the series with a quotation by Henri Nouwen from the Life of the Beloved, which illustrates that knowing we are beloved is the foundation for spiritual practices, and in fact for all we do as Christians. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)



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