Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From My Nature Journal -- Celebrating Earth Day by Praying through the Creation Story: Day 3, "Awed"

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 3 – “Awed” -- And God said, “…let the dry land appear… Let the earth put forth vegetation…” (Genesis 1:9, 11)

Reflect: OK, now we are getting somewhere, a world I can better envision! Never mind how vegetation could be created before the sun, a query that comes from too forced an admixture of our science and our theology! For now, a beautiful world comes majestically into being, forests and flowers and plains, mountains and lakes and oceans. It’s a world created for God’s good pleasure even before God gifts it to us for ours.

But what if God had stopped right here on ‘day 3’ of creation? Interestingly, the scriptures infer God’s creation still had the capacity to give God praise even without human action. From mountains that sing and trees that clap their hands in praise (Isaiah 55:12) to stones that could cry out adulation to Jesus Christ (Luke 19:40), God makes it abundantly clear that all of creation bows to him. Do I? Do you? Completely and unequivocally?

Nature is one of God’s most elemental and basic teachers, yet one overlooked by many in our sophisticated, fast-paced culture. One has to do nothing more than consider how often Jesus’ teachings and parables use examples from it. He constantly illustrates his points by speaking of such things as birds, flowers, weather, luminaries, geological features, trees, seas, fish, seasons. He knew many faith lessons could more easily be learned by people’s simple observations of God’s created order. If you have time, page through the Gospels and pick out a few. Which lesson is yours from Jesus today?

Observe: Since I cannot guarantee good spring or summer weather today everywhere this is being read, our observation will utilize the mind’s eye. Take another of those mini-retreats today and on paper begin by listing a dozen different kinds of flowers. (God’s creation is absolutely giddy with overabundance! But so are God’s other blessings!) For each of the twelve, then think back prayerfully and remember two things to list: a way God has forgiven or rescued you, and a blessing God has provided. Enjoy!

Pray: Lord, as I number my blessings, I can also become giddy with your abundance. And yet I still find there are things that hold me back from fully surrendering to you, or completely trusting you for the provision of my needs. Hear my confession. I do not wish to leave my adulation to the stones. Amen.

Hymn for the Day: “For the Beauty of the Earth”

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