148 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from heaven!
Praise God on the heights!
2 Praise God, all of you who are his messengers!
Praise God, all of you who comprise his heavenly forces!
3 Sun and moon, praise God!
All of you bright stars, praise God!
4 You highest heaven, praise God!
Do the same, you waters that are above the sky!
5 Let all of these praise the Lord’s name
because God gave the command and they were created!
6 God set them in place always and forever.
God made a law that will not be broken.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all you ocean depths!
8 Do the same, fire and hail, snow and smoke,
stormy wind that does what God says!
9 Do the same, you mountains, every single hill,
fruit trees, and every single cedar!
10 Do the same, you animals—wild or tame—
you creatures that creep along and you birds that fly!
11 Do the same, you kings of the earth and every single person,
you princes and every single ruler on earth!
12 Do the same, you young men—young women too!—
you who are old together with you who are young!
13 Let all of these praise the Lord’s name
because only God’s name is high over all.
Only God’s majesty is over earth and heaven.
14 God raised the strength of his people,
the praise of all his faithful ones—
that’s the Israelites,
the people who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
Thoughts on the passage:
When I think about my most profound experiences of God, it is easy to divide them into two categories. There are the sought-after moments when I have experienced God’s presence. Examples of this would be moments like confirmation and ordination where I experienced God in worship, or times when I prayed to God and felt a response. The other category would be the times when God’s presence broke into my life in an unexpected way. These would be the moments where unheralded and unexpected, God showed up in my life. When I think about these experiences, a common theme is the presence of nature.
Perhaps this is not surprising. My first experience of God came at Decision Hills camp. It did not occur during a worship service or a Bible study, those moments I was seeking God. It came as I was looking out over the lake and had a profound experience of God’s presence in the midst of creation. I can remember another such moment in my life as I stood alone in a field at night, surrounded by the wind and stars. Both moments were times that God unexpectedly showed up.
I am not alone in finding God in creation. For centuries poets, songwriters and everyday people like you and I have experienced God’s presence in the miracles of creation that surround us. Maybe we find it in the quiet and stillness of nature, or maybe we hear God’s voice in raging wind and the rolling thunder. Maybe we find God in the intricate beauty of a spider-web or the astonishing detail of a single snowflake. (Okay, so I am not sure anyone is finding God in the snow right now, but in theory we could)
Our psalm today reminds us how all creation gives praise to God. The beauty and the detail of creation is a testament to the love and care that God has for all of us. We can see that love in the beauty that God gives to plants and animals. We can see that love in the interplay of the seasons and the ebb and flow of life. All around us are ways that we can be reminded of God’s grace and God’s presence in our lives. We do not have to go to worship in a church or read the scriptures to experience God, God is with us in these everyday experiences of creation.
So, I am not a pet person. For whatever reason, I have never really enjoyed pets. My theory is that my problem with pets is that they do not respect my space. My experiences with pets as a kid were not the best. My neighbor had a dog that would jump up on you, which can be intimidating when you are a small child. My best friend had a dog that would eat your sandwich off the table if you were not careful. Even as I grew older, I continued to have bad luck. My roommate in seminary had a cat who would sit on my chest when I was reading and block my ability to see the book or walk over my keyboard when I was typing a paper. This same cat went into heat for the first time while my roommate was in Nepal and I was trying to study for finals. These are all reasons that I am just not a big fan of pets.
Even with these negative experiences that I personally have of pets, I believe that in our relationships to pets, we can also experience those sacred moments with God. Maybe it is not when the dog steals your lunch, but rather when it looks at you with love and extends its head to be petted. In the gentle purr of a cat as it rubs against our leg we can feel God’s love. Our pets are chances to experience the holy and the sacred in the midst of the everyday.
All around us are chances to see God. They do not have to be in exceptional moments like the sunrise over Lake Superior. Rather, they can come in the everyday moments we all have. God is all around us. It is up to us to find those Holy Moments in our week when we see God. It is up to us to open our eyes to our God who is present with us each and every day.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated Easter. For me the worship service was a powerful experience. The church was packed with people. The music was uplifting. It was a wonderful service. It was one of those sought-after moments where we did everything we could to prepare for God to show up (and God did). My message for the day focused in part on the need to make Easter more than a one-day event. One of the ways we do this is by expecting to find God every day. This is the season of Easter. This is the time when we practice finding moments of resurrection all around us.
Nature, and the season of spring in particular is a great opportunity to find signs of new life. Creation abounds with examples of life coming from death. We can see it in the compost we prepare for our gardens. We can see it in the grass as it turns from the dead brown of winter to vibrant green of new life. We can see it in the buds and new growth on trees. All around us, creation reminds us of the Easter message: that life triumphs over death; that despair gives way to hope; that God is still with us. May we open our senses up to experience the blessings of God in the gift of life that surrounds us.
Questions to Ponder:
When is a time you have experienced God in the midst of creation?
What signs of new life do you see around you?
How can you be better at looking for God’s presence in creation?
God of all creation, we give you thanks for the ways that all of the earth is a testament to your glorious presence. Help us to be aware of how you are with us each and every day. Open our eyes, ears, and noses to the sights, sounds, and smells or new life that surround us in the season of spring. Help us to see your blessings in the everyday experiences of our lives. Amen