Yr A ~ Creation 1 ~ Psalm 148; Revelation 22:1–5
Delight, listen, work, love, and share. These are the key words we’ll be focusing on for the next few weeks as we explore the liturgical Season of Creation. The subject of our worship in this season is God. That may seem obvious to say because God, Christ, and Spirit are always supposed to the subject of our worship, but sometimes I think people confuse this Season of Creation with worship of the earth. It’s not 5 weeks of tree hugging or a month of environmentalism instead of worship. We’re worshipping God, but we’re using the earth, sea, sky, universe, nature, animals, all as our lens for perceiving God.
The Season of Creation is an opportunity for us to change our primary frame of reference for a few weeks from Ancient Israel and the Roman Empire to the world around us. The five themes this year are ‘delight in me,’ ‘listen to me,’ ‘work with me,’ ‘love me,’ and for Thanksgiving it’s ‘share my abundance.’ You could read the ‘me’ in each of those as the earth, I suppose, but really who we’re delighting in, listening to, working with, and loving is God, uniquely incarnated and revealed in Jesus, and present here, now, and always in the Holy Spirit.
We’ve been thinking a lot this year about the presence of God revealed through our awareness and noticing of the sacred and how we need to take the time to become more present too. Well, the Season of Creation is a perfect companion to this theme. We proclaim “Surely God is in this place – help me notice.” Contemplating creation is a delightful way to remind ourselves and affirm the sacredness of the world we live in and to help us notice the One who is beyond, around, and within it all.
Our first theme is delight. Delight means something that gives great pleasure or enjoyment. I hope that delight is a word that quickly comes to mind when you think of your faith, or spirituality, or when you think about God. It’s a mystery to me how some people can call themselves people of faith but they never seem to be very happy about it. Teresa of Avila wrote “God save us from gloomy saints!” How can you be gloomy? Look around you. Look out that window. Look at the beauty and wonder of creation. It’s delightful!
We are designed to delight in creation – to take pleasure in our senses, to enjoy our surroundings especially in nature. Humans and nature are inextricably linked. I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type but I can tell you if I’m cooped up in the city too long and can’t get a good lungful of clean fresh air, and a nose-full of nature, and an eyeful of trees I get a little squirrelly. Humans + nature = delight!
How about if we put those words together – human nature? Is that delight? Sometimes. But sadly it’s too often our human nature to take creation for granted, to ignore the beauty that surrounds us, to be in the midst of wonder and not notice, or worse still to abuse and exploit the natural world, when we put profit and convenience above stewardship and care. I guarantee our human nature would improve if humans noticed nature more!
And so we mark the Season of Creation. Along with the word ‘creation’ inevitably comes the word ‘Creator.’ Before I go on let me make something very clear. When I’m talking about creation or our Creator God I’m not suggesting that a human-shaped God is sitting in a heavenly laboratory fashioning animals and people for kicks.
But I’m also not willing to say that nature is just nature and as evolution from micro-organisms to fantastically complex organisms took place it was simply chemistry and biology and dumb luck that led to us being here the way we are. Surely there are places on the spectrum between “God did every little thing” and “There is no God so every little thing just happened on its own.”
And while I don’t know much about science I am confident saying this: The universe is not an accident. Whatever language you like, whatever imagery works for you, whatever system of understanding floats your boat, there is, in my view, Something More at the heart of the universe. There is a power, a force, but it isn’t an impersonal scientifically reducible force. There is something more to this Something More, and the only words I have to describe it are words like sacred, loving, and intention. The name and system we’ve ascribed to it is God, most uniquely revealed and incarnated in Jesus, and experienced as Holy Spirit.
And the character or nature of this whatever-it-is that we call God is not malevolent. It is not against us, or opposed to us, or judging us, or wanting to punish us because we’re so bad. Nor is it indifferent, which is how atheists or non-religious people imagine it – a cold scientific law or formula that operates in isolation from any other factors.
Scientists tell us that everything in the universe is vibrating with a fundamental energy that permeates everything in the universe. When you’re in alignment with it there is harmony. That vibration seeks resonance, which is a scientific way of saying that the universe wants harmony.
The indescribably wonderful life-giving claim that we make is that the power or force or energy at the centre of the universe that vibrates and seeks resonant harmony in all things is incalculably benevolent and utterly for us – because when we’re in harmony we flourish in delight!
Ultimate Reality, Holy Mystery, the Force, God, whatever you want to call it, is not malevolent. It is not indifferent. It is benevolent. We don’t know how else to describe it so we use human terms like purpose, and desire, and love. Faith language allows us to talk about it in meaningful ways. In simple spiritual language, the truth of the universe is: ‘God loves us, and God intends abundant life for us.’
And if the Ground of All Being and Prime Mover of the universe intends harmony and good and has literally energized all we see and know and experience then it strikes me that the very least we could do is to notice! And upon noticing how can we not take blissful delight in all the wonders and complexities of what we call creation? Look around! We ought to be so overwhelmed with delight in God and God’s creation that the smile would never leave our faces!
And it’s not just we humans but everything in the universe that is meant to experience this harmony. We just happen to have the most autonomy and freedom in the matter. Nature is already in harmony with itself and the mystery – planets and solar systems in perfect balance – earth’s myriad ecosystems interdependent and flourishing.
In harmony, the whole universe sings in delight. Psalm 148 uses the words ‘praise him’ and ‘praise the Lord’ to sing delight, but I’m going to substitute the word ‘harmony’ or ‘harmonize’ to connect with what we’ve been talking about. Here’s the re-imagined psalm 148:
Harmonize! Harmonize from the heavens; Harmonize in the heights!
Harmonize, all his angels; Harmonize, all his host!
Harmonize, sun and moon; Harmonize, all you shining stars!
Harmonize, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them Harmonize with God, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Harmonize from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them Harmonize in the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, harmony for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Ever wonder why we don’t live in paradise? Anybody got a mirror? It’s human nature. The only glitch in the works is us. We’re the ones who come along and muck it up, because instead of seeing God in it, all we see are dollar signs, or think it’s someone else’s problem, or just don’t see at all. We do not know delight because we turn away from it; we use our free will to choose disharmony.
If instead of being so self-possessed and tuned-in to our own whims and greed we were more in tune with nature and the environment and the universe then we’d simply notice more of the sacred wonder all around and among us. And we would find ourselves in a perpetual state of harmony and delight! – which is what we’re meant for – which is Gods intention for us. And the planet, and all her inhabitants, would be much, much better off.
The bible ends as it began, with a vision of God’s intention for us.
Revelation 22:1-5 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
That’s what harmony and delight look like. The bible begins with a story of the creation of the universe and a garden of beauty and bliss, and it ends with a vision of that garden again.
Pristine nature, abundant life, healing and wholeness, all in the glorious presence of God, all because we can see God’s face, we notice and delight in God’s presence, we have God’s name on our foreheads (which means at the very front of our thoughts, always on our mind). In the vision of God’s intention for us our human nature is transformed into being always present to our ever-present God and harmony and shalom will wash over us in everlasting delight.
So that’s the vision. Can we live it? Can we make that vision a reality? Can we know delight now? Absolutely! It’s simple. All we need do is notice.
Delight in all you see and do. Delight in nature. Delight in food. Delight in people. Delight in learning. Delight in prayer. Delight in music. Delight in work. Delight in one another. Delight in love. Delight in God!
If you seek delight in all you do your life can’t help but be delightful.