Earth Day, 2018.
The Trump Administration’s relentless, science-denying assault on environmental protection is one of the boldest ways the President’s behavior is a blatant contradiction of anything akin to biblical faith. Here’s why.
Listen for the Music
Yousuf Karsh’s portrait of Pablo Casals is the only one he took of a person’s back. When the portrait was on display in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, an old man came each day to gaze at the portrait. When the curator asked why he spent so much time looking at the portrait, the old man snapped, “Hush, young man, hush—can’t you see, I am listening to the music!” (Karsh: A Fifty Year Retrospective, p. 163)
The biblical writers see creation the way that old man saw Karsh’s portrait of Casals.
The heavens declare the glory of God.
The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork…
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their music goes out through all the earth,
their words reach to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1, 3)
One of the first hymns I learned in Sunday School declares:
This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings,
And round me rings
The music of the spheres.
Creation Sings a Song of Praise
Here’s the way the Lord described creation to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-70
The bible says that this world began with a song of praise to its Creator. And that’s the way the bible says it will end. The book of Revelation pictures the throngs of heaven singing:
You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created. (Revelation 4:11)
Some people assume this world is self-creating and has no larger purpose than its own existence.
Some people assume this world exists to be used, abused and subdued for human purposes.
But the bible says that “the earth is the Lord’s.” (Psalm 24:1) It does not belong to us. We are short-term custodians of a world that belongs to God. But there is more…
Creation Sings a Song of Sorrow
Paul told the Romans, “It is plain for anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail.” (Romans 8:22) He may have gotten that from the Old Testament prophets.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.(Hosea 4:1-3)
“Your wrongdoing has upset nature’s order, and your sins have kept from you her kindly gifts.” (Jeremiah 5:25)
The scientific evidence confirms the biblical accusation that that our sinful, careless, environment-abusing behavior has upset nature’s order. The creation itself sings a song of sorrow. But there is more…
Creation Sings a Song of Hope
Paul went on to say:
The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own….The hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:19-21)
“God so loved the world (cosmos) so much that he gave his son.” (John 3:16) On the cross, Jesus died not only for the personal sins that destroy our individual lives, but for our wrongdoing that disrupts the environment. When he rose on Easter morning, he rose not just to give human beings the hope of eternal life, but to confirm God’s intention to redeem, to restore, to re-create this whole bruised and broken creation.
Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, said “God’s kingdom is creation healed.” (On Being a Christian, p. 231) German theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote: “The goal of Christ’s rule over the universe is the glorification of God through the new redeemed creation.” (The Way of Jesus Christ, p. 194)
Join the Song of Creation
Here’s the most shocking news of all: God intends to heal this broken and bruised creation, at least in part, through folks like us. Followers of the Risen Christ are the sons and daughters of God for whom this whole created order is waiting on tiptoe.
Followers of the Risen Christ care about the earth – they recycle their newspapers, they reduce their energy consumption, they work for governmental policies that reduce emissions — not out of economic necessity and not out of political persuasion, but because that’s who they are as the sons and daughters of God. That’s the way we get in on God’s re-creation of this abused and broken world. That’s the way we live into the new life of the resurrection.
Carlton Ward is one of those people for whom creation is waiting. The mission of his photography is “To celebrate Florida’s natural environments and cultural legacies with the purpose of inspiring their protection.” On Sunday he will complete his third trek across Florida, this time calling attention to the need for the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
We may not be able to make that trek, but we can do our part. Biblical faith leads to political action and to changes in our personal behavior so that we can become participants with God in the salvation of the creation.
You can join in singing the hymn here.
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
Grace and peace,
P.S. After reading this post, a friend sent me the following article in which NASA confirms what the hymn writer called “the music of the spheres.” Amazing! http://thespiritscience.net/2015/06/15/nasa-discovers-planets-and-stars-give-off-music-this-is-what-it-sounds-like/.
7 thoughts on “Listening to Creation”
Beautiful, inspiring, convicting post on this Earth Day weekend. I follow outdoor adventure, nature, and environmental blogs, and while there are many sources of distress in our world today, nothing makes me weep more than the destruction of this magnificent planet, created along with our solar system and the vast universe by the all-time greatest Artist. We are surrounded with beauty and have been provided with all that we need, used wisely.
Thank you,Jim, for this well thought out post. I also enjoyed the picture and song “This Is My Father’s World “. The link to Florida Wildlife Corridor is interesting– it got my vote!
Glad to see you have not quit preaching, just changed pulpits.
Thank you, Jim! This is beautiful and timely. My sermon this Sunday is on Joseph in prison (Arrested Development) but a thread will tie his stewardship to our stewardship of the planet. Thanks for giving me more to contemplate!
One would think that protecting the environment would be one of any President’s highest priorities. Thanks for using an even higher authority to make the case. Lisa
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It is amazing how well these old hymns speak truth, and how comforting they are. Lfw
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Amen! I can’t think of a contemporary song that carries as much theological and emotional freight as “This Is My Father’s World.”