To the Church in Exile,
The peace of Christ be with you. Today’s daily lectionary reading is Psalm 147:
1 Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
What a perfect Earth Day psalm. The psalmist talks about how good it is to sing praises to God “for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.” Notice how the psalm names this graciousness extended to us: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds…. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
But the psalmist doesn’t stop there. God’s graciousness extends to creation and other creatures: He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. He gives animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. God has a relationship with creation and other creatures beyond God’s relationships with us.
I was stunned a few years ago when reading a book about the flood story in Genesis when the author asked the question, “What does it mean that God has a covenant with non-human creatures?” The rainbow covenant with Noah and his family we know well, but how often had I paid attention to the fact that God makes a covenant with other creatures that carries as much weight in the passage as Noah’s covenant? This psalm gives voice to what God’s care looks like: tending, nurturing, watering and feeding.
As those made in God’s image, that’s our job too. We are to be like God to the rest of the earth, representing God to God’s very own creation. We’re going to be answering to our Lord on how we’re doing.
We Image bearers face big challenges. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now 415 parts per million (ppm), up from 391 ppm ten years ago. For 10,000 years right up to the industrial revolution, levels were steady at 280 ppm. We’re making God’s covenant partner sick. On the other hand, we’re seeing where we’ve been good stewards. A few decades ago, when we recognized “Ozone holes” in the atmospheric shield caused by certain chemicals, and thus allowing dangerous levels of UVA rays causing skin cancer, damage to crops, etc., we created an international response, the Montreal Protocol. Now 99% of the responsible chemicals are no longer sold and the Ozone holes are expected to heal by 2060.
Earth Day, April 22nd, although a secular event, has synergy with our call to care for creation by many Christian denominations. Our own PCUSA encourages acknowledgement of Earth Day and has suggestions for participation. Bethany Elder Janette Plunkett is leading an Earth Day Retrospective tomorrow, April 23rd, 7:30 pm on Zoom at this link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/71219851000. Bring your ideas and questions.
Today as we praise the God who lifts up the downtrodden, let’s also praise the God who loves non-human creation by being faithful bearers of God’s image.
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“Collect for the Stewardship of Creation,” The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
Peace in Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11