To that end, Molly encouraged us to make a list of 100 things we are grateful for. If you haven’t made your list yet, take ten minutes and do it today. You will be glad you did. These lists proclaim the breadth and depth of God’s abundant generosity, as well as our call to live a life of gratitude.
Today’s psalm (104) reminds us that God’s generosity is not limited to humanity. In fact, God gives to every living thing, and all that has life is called to take a posture of gratitude towards our Creator.* The psalm describes the ecosystem of creation and proclaims, “...the earth is fully satisfied by the fruits of your works” (104:13b).
The psalmist goes on to describe the grass grown for flocks and herds, the trees full of sap, and the birds building nests in those very same trees (104: 14a, 17, 18). “Yonder is the great and wide sea with it’s living things too many to number, creatures both small and great”, including the sea monster playing in the waters (104:26-27). The psalmist tells us that all creatures-whether they be in the water, on land, or in the air- look to God (104:28).
Ultimately, this psalm is not about humanity. Rather we are one of many species and forms of life within the ecosystem.This is reflected in verse 25 when the psalmist writes:
“O Holy One, how manifold are all your works;
in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures” (104:25).
Theologian J. Clinton McCann, Jr. explores this idea in depth, and writes:
“The psalm does not put humanity as the climax of creation, rather we are among the ‘all’ God created.”
He goes on to say,
“Our existence and the ongoing existence of the world are grounded in God’s commitment to and enjoyment of life.”
Not to overstate the obvious here, but this is not how our culture has shaped our understanding of our place in the order of creation. We have been taught in thought, word, and deed that the earth is here to serve us. And historically the Church has played a role in perpetuating that myth. Capitalism and individualism have gone to great lengths to perpetuate this false truth that the earth’s resources are infinite and that it is God’s intention for us to use the earth’s resources as we see fit.
Yet our ancestors in faith have something to teach us about the posture we take towards God and Creation. In his book Sabbath As Resistance, Walter Brueggemann writes about an important speech Moses gives to the Israelites as they prepare to conclude their forty year journey in the wilderness and enter the promised land.*
Forty years is a long time. It was long enough for the generation who had been enslaved by Pharaoh to have died off. Before their liberation and journey into the wilderness, that generation had only ever known the back breaking cycle of making more bricks, to build more structures, so Pharaoh might store more grain. Meanwhile, a new generation had been born, and while they heard the stories of the time in Egypt from their parents and grandparents, they had only ever known this time of covenant with God and wandering in the wilderness towards the promised land.
Moses was concerned that when they entered the promised land, they would forget what they had been liberated from in Egypt, and the life changing covenant they had entered into with God. He urged the Israelites to keep their covenant with God, and to maintain a posture of gratitude in the way they embodied their faith and lived their lives. To remember, it was God who had pulled them out of the deadly, back breaking cycle of making more bricks. The fertile soil in this new land would allow their people to prosper-- and that was what concerned Moses. He knew how easy it would be for the Israelites to settle down, growing and prospering, that they would eventually return to the pattern they knew all those years ago under Pharaoh- a cycle of constant work, driven to produce and take more and more.
“The new land will work so well that Israel will think they can manage on their own. They will be tempted to autonomy, without due reference to YHWH. And the reason they will be tempted by autonomy is that the new land will make them inordinately prosperous. Moses knows that prosperity breeds amnesia”(37).
Prosperity breeds amnesia.
Moses knew there was great risk of the Israelites forgetting their time trapped in the endless cycle of making more bricks. He knew they were at great risk of forgetting their covenant with God, especially God’s expectation that they cease from work one day each week so that God, the earth herself, and all of the species within creation could find rest and renewal.
We live in America. We know what prosperity looks like, and we also know how easily we can fall into that amnesia. Our prosperity leads us to forget much...
This psalm calls us back. On the Day of Pentecost, a day when we celebrate the many manifestations and experiences of the Holy Spirit. What if today as a Church we lean on the Holy Spirit to remind us that this Way of Love we are called into is not just for the people that walk on this earth, but for every form of life within Creation?
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry frequently reminds us that the kind of love we are talking about in the Way of Love is an ‘agape’ love. Agape is Greek for “love for the other--sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, of the world” (14).* Sometimes when we hear the word “world” it is tempting to imagine all the people of the earth-- but as this psalm lifts up, we are but one small piece of the world. World is really just another word for creation.
God modeled the Way of Love in the story of creation and in the covenant at Sinai.
Jesus of Nazareth showed us how to walk the Way of Love throughout his ministry.
The resurrected Christ calls us to walk the Way of Love.
Today, the Holy Spirit empowers us to embody that sacrificial Way of Love for the good of neighbor, society, and every living thing within creation.
If this psalm does nothing else for us today, may it be to teach us we are but one of many majestic forms of life within creation that God treasures; and as such, we are called to live in unity with this ecosystem, to care for and love it. The psalmist writes of the Holy One,
“...you ride on the wings of the wind. You make the winds your messengers…” (104:3b-4a).
This Pentecost, my prayer is that as a Church we will embrace a posture of gratitude towards our Creator, and that each time the wind touches our skin we will remember the Holy Spirit is with us. A gift to empower and sustain us as we live out the sacrificial Way of Love by caring deeply for the welfare of our planet, and every species we share this ecosystem with-- whether they be chickens, leviathans, or even mosquitos.
May it be so.
Meet our Preachers
Coffee with Clergy
Do you want to get together to talk about your spiritual life or learn more about our community? Contact us and we will find time to get together.