Saturday, April 28, 2018

From My Nature Journal -- Celebrating Earth Day by Praying through the Creation Story: Day 7, "Gratitude"

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 7 – “Grateful” -- And on the seventh day God finished the work… and he rested… So God blessed the seventh day… (Genesis 2:2-3)

Reflect: God’s tasks were complete, for the time being, and he rested. Did God need it? No. But as so often the case, God first models the behavior and action God desires from his children. He knew we would need it. And as God rested, we cannot but imagine that he also reflected, gratified for a job well done.

God’s creation story is one of fruitfulness and respectful gratitude. Should our story be any different, especially if we are created in God’s image? Along with his spectacular creation, rest and a spirit of thankfulness are gifts to us from our Creator God. One replenishes us. The other defines our reason for being. But we must give ourselves time and opportunity to practice and enjoy them both.

When it comes to spiritual reflection, on the Sabbath or any day, people of faith for centuries have enjoyed a practice called an examen. Most often experienced in the evening, it is a time to reflect upon our attentiveness to the presence of God in our day. When did God seem most close? When most far? Why? For what am I thankful? When was I most attentive to God? Least? Did I represent Jesus well today, or not? When? What can I do differently tomorrow? Though the questions can vary, a regular examen can be a very important practice in one’s ongoing Christian formation.

Observe: Make a place this evening, or by the next Lord’s Day, for the last of our five-minute retreats this week. If you can and if the weather cooperates, sit outdoors or by a window where you can observe a sunset or a night sky. Do you know the simple hymn to the tune of Taps, called Day is Done? Reflect on it as you prepare for rest.
            Day is done. Gone the sun
            From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.
            All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.

                        Fading light dims the night
                        And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
                        From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

                                    Thanks and praise for our days
                                    ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky.
                                    As we go this we know: God is nigh.

Pray: Lord, you are ever near, revealing yourself to us through others, through your creation and through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your creative majesty, for beauty that inspires, for marvels that humble. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Amen.

Hymn for the Day: “How Great Thou Art”

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