All Creation Praise – Sept. 15, 2019
All Creation Praise
A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
September 15, 2019
Main Idea – We each have a role to play in the vast pattern of Creation
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Psalm 104 is a wonderful, poetic hymn to God our Creator. Not just our creator but the creator of all that is. This hymn sings of the vastness of the stars and the smallness of a rabbit’s hole. It invites us into the delight of God who really enjoys and loves everything that God has made. It does not lift up humanity as the center of the universe. It sees us as one part of the amazing, intricate, kaleidoscopic pattern of life in which each part is unique and essential. As we explore this psalm this morning, I invite you to open up your Bible and follow along. And I invite you to ponder two ideas. The first is to hear the psalm as an invitation to see creation as God sees it. The second is to hear the psalm as an invitation to find and claim your own unique and essential role to play in caring for this beloved creation.
The text we read this morning is just the middle of this lovely psalm. The psalm begins with “Bless the LORD, O my soul” and then describes God as “clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment.” (v. 1-2a) Clouds, wind, and fire serve as God’s chariot, messengers and ministers. Like the passage we read last week from the book of Job, the Psalmist talks about God’s work in laying the foundations of the earth and containing the waters, and alludes to the story of Noah and the flood. “You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.” (v. 9) The Psalmist’s images move back and forth between vastness and small detail. “By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.” (v.12-13) I picture God with a watering can, smiling at God’s beautiful garden. God’s attentive, providential care is all that is needed.
The Psalmist sings of grass for cattle and plants for people to use; bread and wine to strengthen and gladden the human heart. People are mentioned but just as part of the whole. The Psalmist sings of the “trees of the LORD” which are watered abundantly. We often talk about God’s people, how often do we think about God’s trees? These trees provide homes for the birds and other creatures. “The high mountains are for the wild goats, the rocks are a refuge for the coneys” (which are rabbits). Each animal has its own place for shelter and food. Even the moon and the darkness help in the patterns of life. The Psalmist sings “You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw and lie down in their dens.”(v. 20-22). This is not a utopia where the lion is lying down with the lamb, rather, this psalm celebrates the natural order as it is. Everything in creation is good and connected with everything else. More importantly, everything is connected to God.
The psalm is filled with so many beautiful and playful images, all of which claim creation as made and beloved of God. In verses 25-26, the psalmist sings “Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.” In the book of Job and elsewhere, Leviathan is a mythic giant crocodile, a symbol of chaos and evil. Here Leviathan is God’s plaything, no longer something to be feared but created by God just for fun! Nothing is outside of God.
After showing us all of these images, the Psalmist again sings of God’s provision and all of creation’s dependence. “These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. (v.27-30)
God is intimately involved in creation, not just back “In the beginning” but at all times, providing food and good things; breathing life into each plant and creature and renewing the face of the ground. If God were to turn away, all would fall to dust and chaos. But God does not turn away. God delights in all that God has created.
To see creation as God sees it; to see the pattern by which all are interconnected, leads us to care for our world as an act of praise. We are filled with awe and wonder at the variety of life and we are invited to care for all of creation as we care for our neighbor. We love and delight in the world around us because God does. We rejoice that everything needed for life has been provided by God. “Psalm 104 affirms that God has made every arrangement and provision for the life of the world. The only problem [is when] someone disrupts God’s design and destroys the delicate balance God has put in place. (J. Clinton McCann, Jr, Interpreter’s Bible p. 1100)
The Amazon rainforest is an incredible example of God’s vast creation. It is the world’s largest rain forest and river system, about 2/3 of the size of the continental US. It is the most biologically diverse place on Earth with 10% of all animal and plant species living within its borders. It is estimated to have 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees, 2.5 million insect species, 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fish species, 1,300 bird species (20% of all birds), 427 mammals, 430 amphibian species and 380 reptile species, with many species still undiscovered or unclassified. It is home to more species of plants and animals than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. The Amazon is also home to more than 30 million people, including 350 indigenous and ethnic groups [50 of which have had no contact with the outside world], all of whom depend on the rainforest for their food, homes, and ways of life. Many of the fruit and vegetables enjoyed around the world originated in the Amazon such as avocados, oranges, coconuts, lemons, pineapples, mangoes, and a variety of other vegetables and spices. One quarter of Western medicine used today have rainforest based ingredients. 70% of plants identified as active against cancer cells come from the Amazon, and it may be that the cure for cancer is within its depths.
As amazing as the Amazon is within its borders, its influence and importance to the whole earth can not be overstated. The rain forests, which contain 90 billion to 140 billion metric tons of carbon, help stabilize the local and global climate. The Amazon river pumps about 7 trillion tons of water per year into the atmosphere, and its forests recycle 50%-75% of annual rainfall back into the atmosphere. It provides more than 20% of the world’s oxygen, continually absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The Amazon functions as the lungs of our planet.
As we all know the Amazon is now on fire with more than 100,000 fires burning. Many of these fires were intentionally set to clear the forest for grazing land. Ironically, the soil of the rainforest is poor in nutrients so not good for planting crops, but cattle ranchers see the land as valuable for pastures. The fires, which can be seen from space are causing a global spike in air pollution. Even before the fires, 20% of the Amazon had already been lost to logging and other deforestation activities, 1.5 acres lost every second. Experts predict that the Amazon may be gone in 40 years unless stronger conservation policies are adopted and enforced.
So what can we do? How can we help? We can support organizations working to save the Amazon such as the World Wildlife Fund or the Rainforest Trust. We can reduce our wood and paper use and we can pay attention to the origin of the wood and paper that we do use. We can limit the amount of beef we eat, especially from fast-food places and processed products. Beef marked with USDA may have been been imported from a foreign country and just processed here in the US. Among large global fast food and grocery stores, only McDonalds and Walmart have Deforestation-Free Beef policies. Changing our daily behavior can make a difference in the health of the Amazon and our planet as a whole.
Psalm 104 invites us to see ourselves as part of the whole and to care for creation, not just to save ourselves but to serve and praise our God. We often talk about caring for the earth out of fear of climate change. We want to “save” the earth so that we can continue to live comfortably and future generations can live as we do. We still see nature and earth’s resources as “stuff to be used by us.” Our focus is on ourselves and our motivation to recycle, reduce, reuse is fear.
Although writing thousands of years ago, this Psalmist was an environmentalist! God wants us to look out and look around at the breadth of life with which we are surrounded, and to see that the LORD God made them all. We are connected to all Life which is an intricate, ever moving puzzle with each species, each individual having an unique and critical part of the whole. And so I invite you today to think about what is your unique part to play? How will your life care for the world? In this vast variety of creation, from the mighty mountains to the tiny bugs, there is only one you. And God loves you, each of one of us, uniquely and individually. God calls each of us to care for this beloved creation in praise and in joy and in wonder. Let us approach our role in this world with love and humility.
Let us pray, Amazing God, we are awestruck at the beauty and grandeur of your creation. We are humbled by your loving care of all. Nothing is beyond you. Help us to see the world as you see it. Help us to care for our planet, not simply for our own sakes but for the sake of all. Amen.
Amazon facts are courtesy of
-10 Facts about the Amazon Rainforest by Rhett A. Butler, April 1, 2019, rainforest.mongabay.com
–What animals live in the Amazon? And 8 other Amazon facts worldwildlife.org
-Amazon facts – natgeokids.com
–25+ Spectacular Facts About the Amazon Rainforest (conserve-energy-future.com)