Monday, April 23, 2018

From My Nature Journal -- Celebrating Earth Day by Praying through the Creation Story: Day 2, "Beloved"

Introduction: The ways people pursue God, or even pray, can be as different as the very people who pursue God. Spiritual writers and mentors have long appreciated these varieties of pathways that pilgrims have followed in their prayer journey. For example, many are led to deep devotion through such things as music, contemplation or activism, but others have found that it’s the beauty and mystery of the natural, created world that leads them to a humbling encounter of praise and prayer with their Creator God. Of course, the pathways mix to varying degrees according to our personalities and interests.

Those who find nature an important spiritual pathway can see their own faith story unfold in the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2 in the Christian and Jewish Bible. Being mindful not to worship creation but only the Creator, a consideration of the natural world not only helps them do that, but also guides them in their stewardship of what God has created. Each day this week we will look to the ‘seven day’ creation story from these first two chapters of the Bible’s very first book. All references are from the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version.

Day 2 – “Beloved” -- And God said, “Let there be a dome…” (Genesis 1:6)

Reflect: Now that light has been created and things may be seen (had there been people to see them!), it is said that God separates the waters from the firmament, another word for the skies. And just like that, formlessness moves further to form. This is not the place for the unwinnable argument over the creation process. Suffice it to say that, as our story within God’s creation story continues to unfold, we simply and most critically see the actions of a personal God whose love, beauty and order also continue to unfold, even, perhaps even especially, in the midst of chaos.

The Psalmist David goes so far as to say that it is these very, astounding and expansive skies that best show God’s ‘steadfast love’ and faithfulness. The phrase ‘steadfast love’ is from the Hebrew chesed, and, as far as I can ever remember, it is a phrase I’ve never seen referenced to anyone but God. Translators even struggle to render the richness and uniqueness of the phrase, showing it also as ‘tender mercy,’ ‘loving kindness,’ or ‘unfailing love.’ In its near-defying translation, it is therefore perhaps deserving of sole reference to the Almighty.

The Psalms also say, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).” Our human condition too often causes us to look down as we pace ourselves through our own chaos and check our steps. Yet the scriptures implore us also to look up and see the mastery and mystery of our Creator God. It is here that a whole different dimension of prayer can begin. Praise God for this larger upward perspective, this great blessing!

Observe: How long has it been since you truly sat back for a while and looked up at the sky? What incredible things to behold it contains! Take a five-minute retreat today to do just that. What do you see for which you can give God thanks? Then, go deeper. Ask yourself: for me, in what ways does God’s loving-kindness extend to the heavens? In what ways does God’s faithfulness reach the clouds?

Pray: Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. Amen.

Hymn for the Day: “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

~~ RGM, April 23, 2018

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