Text: Psalm 24
Carl Jung said that at the core of our life journey is one question we are born to pursue. In reflecting on Jung’s insight, eco-philosopher and activist Joanna Macy says this: “The one question threading through my life here on this beautiful Earth is about how to be fully present to my world – present enough to rejoice and be useful – while we as a species are progressively destroying it.”
These are hard days for our planet. Our climate is clearly changing and there are still many in positions of power who deny this. Even in the midst of the current storms, some leaders are saying now is not the time to talk about the human-induced warming of the earth. I’ve read that a few religious leaders actually blame the storms on things like Houston having had a lesbian mayor or Disney World being too gay-friendly. Ironically, many others who usually offer similar wisdom about God’s role in causing natural disasters are suddenly silent now. I suspect it’s not a coincidence that many of their climate-change-denier compatriots live in Texas and Florida. In response to all of this blaming, one progressive activist said these hurricanes are God’s way of demanding that we stop changing the climate by our greed and disregard for the planet.
In these moments I think it’s important to recognize that these destructive storms are not only destroying property and taking human lives. They are also damaging fragile ecosystems. Nature is wounding itself in increasingly dangerous ways because things are out of balance. I believe it’s because we humans – or, more specifically, we comfortable, first-world humans – have tipped the scales in our favor. We have disregarded the impact of our need for comfort and convenience on our Mother Earth.
Today as we worship in God’s beautiful creation, Psalm 24 reminds us that the earth does not belong to us. The traditional translation says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” Nan Merrill’s adaptation Bryan read for us says, “The earth is yours, O Giver of Life, in all its fullness and glory…!” Like most of the psalms, these are words filled with passion. In fact, there is a great deal of variety and freedom in the composition of individual psalms. Yet all express deep emotions. The writers of the psalms were passionate people who tried to communicate the longings of their hearts. They wrote poem-prayers and set them to music intended to be sung by the worshipping community.
Worship is intended to be dynamic activity, says one theologian, and prayer is most often a response to personal or communal experience. The psalms were not written to explain abstract theology for us. They were written to facilitate people coming to God from all the experiences of their lives, good and bad. Even in their variety, there are common ways that the psalmists spoke, ranging from descriptions of problems facing individuals or the community to cries for help in the form of petitions to God. This common expression of deep emotion gives evidence that the Psalms were part of the public spiritual life of ancient Israel.
Scholars categorize psalms in various ways, but common types include psalms of lament and psalms of thanksgiving and confidence. There are psalms about leadership, psalms of wisdom and psalms of remembrance. Many psalms are first and foremost hymns of praise.
As we are gathered here as the Pullen family, we are going to write our own Psalm for Creation. I invite you to gather in groups of ten or so to do this. Once you begin your conversation, the ushers will bring you a piece of paper and a pen. First, be sure you introduce yourselves to each other because there is probably someone sitting near you that you don’t know. Next take a moment to ponder a word that comes to you when you think about creation in this moment in time. In other words, what is your word for creation today? Not a paragraph, but a word. Then share it with your group. Next your group is going to draw from these words to write one brief, simple sentence to be included in our Pullen Psalm for Creation. This should not be a convoluted compound sentence that includes every word offered, but a simple summary expression of your group’s feelings about creation today. It could be a statement of lament or one of thanksgiving. It could be a word of wisdom or a word of compassion. Together quickly craft one brief sentence. Then identify someone in your group who will read your statement to this assembly.
Now I know we have lots of English teachers and wordsmiths in this crowd who could wax eloquent on this subject for days. But the goal is to get to our delicious lunch pretty soon and have time for fellowship. So you will have ten minutes total to get into your groups, introduce yourselves, voice your words, draw a psalm sentence from them and pick someone to read your sentence here at the microphone. I’ve been with you long enough to know that this is a tall order for Pullen people. But I have confidence that you can do it. I will tell you when you need to be finishing up. Then we will close our meditation time by reading our Pullen Psalm for Creation.
GROUPS WRITE ONE STATEMENT IN A PULLEN “PSALM FOR CREATION”
Friends, let us be fully present to our world – present enough to rejoice and useful. For the earth belongs to the Giver of Life in all its fullness and glory. Thanks be to God!