Monday, November 1, 2010

Nature - November, 2010

God’s Creative Genius

In view of our contemporary ecological crisis, the [biblical] wisdom tradition can offer some valuable insight for the Christian community by inviting us to behold the creative genius of God's handiwork in the natural world. Before the Creator, Job is made to feel small. And so should we. What begins for Job as a pursuit of divine justice ends with job receiving an elementary lesson on his place within God's created order. This is an exercise that we would do well to learn. The voice of God in the whirlwind is not done speaking yet. Every now and then, the fury of creation unleashed reminds us of our rightful place and calls us to responsible stewardship in God's divine order. Even now the vast blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean, the expansive painted landscape of the Grand Canyon, and the delicate beauty of the Florida Everglades all proclaim God's glory, and “heavenly beings shout for joy.” Like Job, we too should be speechless with wonder when we consider that we have contributed nothing to this elegant grandeur. When God speaks, nature rejoices--and we must be quiet.

Bradley J. Bergfalk (19 - ), “When God Speaks: God and Nature in the Divine Speeches of Job,” from To Hear and Obey: Essays in Honor of Fredrick Carlson Holmgren, Edited by Bradley J. Bergfalk and Paul E. Koptak (1997), p. 81.


Why do flowers bloom in the spring?
Why do bees have to sting?
Why do bells always ring?
I guess that’s the way God made it.
Why is the water always blue?
Why do cows say moo?
I wonder how God planned this.
Why does he make some people tall?
I guess that’s the way God made it all.

Kristine Twedt (1973- ), Age 8, Willmar, Minnesota
From Poems and Prayers from the Ark, Priscilla Johnson, ed. (1984), p. 22.

When we listen to many scientists speak, we find that they do not seem to give credit to God for creating the earth. This does not necessarily mean that they lack faith in God. Weather forecasters do not usually give credit to God for bringing rain, but this does not mean that they disbelieve in God or that God is not behind the natural causes of rain. Scientists make discoveries by studying the earth itself. As a result of their studies they change their views from time to time. The message of the Bible, on the other hand, deals with things that do not change. We respect the work of scientists and make use of their discoveries, but nothing the scientists may learn about the earth will prove that God was not there from the beginning as its Creator. In fact, it is quite impossible to imagine how it could have happened without him.

In general, science seeks to discover how the earth came to be and how we can learn from it in order to use its resources. The purpose of the Bible, on the other hand, is to tell us why the earth was created and what meaning it has for us. Therefore, science and the Bible have different purposes, and even though they do not always seem to recognize one another, this does not mean that they are opposed to one another.

Some scientists believe in God and some do not, but their scientific study cannot destroy our faith in God. He has given us the ability to believe in him if we are willing to do so. Therefore, our faith need not be affected by people who do not seem to give God credit for creating the earth. We recognize him as the one who caused all things to exist, and we continue to live as people who belong to him.

Wesley W. Nelson (1910- ), God’s Friends: Called to Believe and Belong (1985), p. 24.


The vastness of the universe You created
Thrills us, Lord God;
No man can hope to know its limits
Or grasp its size.
For who can gauge the length and breadth
Of heaven’s highest vault?
Or who can tell the power
Bound up in galaxies of light?
Or who can count the stars?

Our wonder at this universe is burning;
It inflames us.
But let our awe for You, Creator,
Burn more brightly
And consume us.

Pauline Lenore Larson (1951-1977), Broken Arcs (1979), p. 17.

Spiritual Lessons

There is the closeness to the sky by day and an inexpressible nearness to the stars at night. Most exalting is the hour when day draws to a close before a bonfire of dazzling beauty. Beyond the rooftops and the chimney spires, beyond the city belfries that silhouette the western sky, God pens a chapter in the language of eternity.

Far below in the busy street the traffic rushes in a ceaseless stream day and night, accented now and then by shrieks of sirens--ambulances, police cars, fire engines, and other whistles and alarms. The ear, even in the third-floor chamber, cannot escape the clamor. But, strangely, one does not mind, for in this little haven close to the sky one learns to live apart from the world's unrest. That is its magic.

For here the habit of the soul
Feels less the outer world's control.

After all, the truest solitude is not conditioned by what goes on outside. It is the interior solitude that matters. As for the tumult below--it is still there. Pulling out all the stops of the imagination, what one finally trains the ear to hear are curious sea-sounds--dashing waves and bursts of fury, splashing surf, shrieking winds, and foghorns calling from the deep. Then one has found his way to Nature's lap after all. What a priceless possession is the power to imagine!

Helga Skogsbergh (1892-1969), A Time to Reflect (1965), p. 15.

The wild morning-glory has in its nature a determination to climb. In the absence of a trellis or other adequate support, it will entwine itself around a tree stump or a weed: but climb it must and stretch it will. The human sentiments are like that. How well for the human character if it can have Christ for its trellis, upon whom it may be trained to its best expression!

Olga Lindborg (1889-1945), “Our Conscious Selves”
Manuscript, Covenant Archives, Record Series 2-1-14, Box 1.

(Original translation from Swedish of O Store Gud)
O mighty God, when I behold the wonder of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine, and how thou leadest all from realms up yonder, sustaining earthly life with love benign,

Refrain: with rapture filled my soul thy name would laud, O mighty God! O mighty God! With rapture filled my soul thy name would laud, O mighty God! O mighty God!

When I behold the heavens in their vastness, where golden ships in azure issue forth,
where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness of changing seasons and of time on earth,

And when I hear the roar of storms and thunder, when lightning cleaves the heavy sky in twain, and rainbow fair, the sign of promise tender, reveals itself when ends refreshing rain,

When summer winds o’er verdant fields are playing, when flowers bloom by cooling waters’ edge, when singing birds on ev’ry tree are swaying and fill with melody each grove and hedge,

And when I see, in holy Scripture reading, thy deeds, O God, on earth since birth of man, thy grace and wisdom that is shown in leading thy people ever safe across life’s span,

When I hear fools in ignorance and folly deny thee, God, and taunt thy holy Word,
and yet perceive that thou supplieth wholly their ev'ry need, thy love in grace conferred,

When I behold thy Son to earth descending, to heal and save and teach distressed mankind, when evil flees and death is seen recoiling before the glory of the Lord divine,

When crushed by guilt of sin, before thee kneeling I plead for mercy and for grace and peace, I feel thy balm and, all my bruises healing, my soul is filled, my heart is set at ease,

And when at last the mists of time have vanished and I in truth my faith confirmed shall see, upon the shores where earthly ills are banished I'll enter, Lord, to dwell in peace with thee,

Carl Boberg (1859-1940), “O Mighty God, When I Behold the Wonder,” tr. E. Gustav Johnson (1893-1974), from The Covenant Hymnal (1973), No. 19. (This is the original English version of O Store Gud, first published in The Children’s Friend in 1925. Carl Boberg was a Swedish Covenant pastor. The abbreviated version of his famous hymn, widely known and loved as “How Great Thou Art” (cf. The Covenant Hymnal: a Worshipbook, 1996, No.8) is a later English translation of a Russian version, based on an earlier German translation of the original.


Snow is a benediction
In which the hurt fingers
Of earth touch at heaven,
And no sin lingers.

Snow is the hand of Christ
Blessing the dark ground,
Forgiving the sins of earth
With a small sound.

Fred Moeckel (1929-1966), None But a Child May Enter (1982), p. 71.

Now comes the time for flowers, for joy, for beauty great.
Come near, you summer hours, earth’s grasses recreate.
Sun’s kind and lovely charming of dead things winter slew,
comes intimately warming and all is born anew.

Our lovely flowered meadows, the till field’s noble seed,
rich herbs laid out in windrows, green groves sedately treed:
these wonderful reminders of God’s good kingdom strong;
that we his grace remember, it spans the whole year long.

We hear the birdsong ringing a many throated laud:
shall not our tongues be singing our praise to father God?
My soul, lift up God’s greatness, a hearty song employ,
to him who wills to find us and bring us endless joy.

You gentle Jesus, Christus, our radiant sun, our shield,
your light, your arm protect us, to you cold senses yield.
Bring fires of love internal, but damp the heats of lust,
prevent all hurt infernal: teach us your hand to trust.

Israel Kolmodin (1643-1709), “Now Comes the Time for Flowers,” tr. Zenos E. Hawkinson (1925-1997), from The Covenant Hymnal: a Worshipbook (1996), No. 646.

Soul Changing

Listen how God speaks though the daily wonders about us. Harken to the deep secrets of nature–the sighing winds, the lapping waves, the singing birds. But better still, listen to what the silent wonders say–a sunset laying its hand of benediction upon a weary day, the first star that appears when the swift darkness of winter settles over the land, the white hush of a morning blanketed in snow, the mellow glow of autumn before the winds blow. And yet, as Job says, “These are but the outskirts of his ways.” There are so many moments in the ordinary events of daily life that can be clues to sensing God’s nearness. But we so often let ourselves become encased in a shell of everydayness, a shell which the ray of wonder cannot penetrate.

...God doesn’t always speak in words. He may use another form of vocabulary, that of sight, sound, beauty, sorrow, friendship–and even tragedy. In the silent places with God men [and women] have received revelations destined to change history.

...Behold the stretching glories which surround us daily–the vastness of space, the uplifted hills, the measureless sea. These are ministers of expansion for the soul. There is the sky–“the daily bread of the eye.” We may not have an ocean, or a mountain, or fields of green on which to fix our eyes, but there is always a skyline somewhere to remind us of something larger than ourselves. The wonder of the heavens, the pageantry of clouds, speak a message to all people in every land.

Helga Skogsbergh (1892-1969), A Time to Reflect (1965), pp. 20,21,22.

If we are to believe the vision of God that we have in our Bibles, we know that he is supremely the master of reality. He is supremely the creator of a cosmos in which awesome wonders are on daily display. Because of our pressures in life, and our constant self-examination, as well as our need to perform, we never take the time to see these wonders. It is as one of my students said last week, “I've made an important discovery: you don't see much of the world when you're constantly examining your navel.” I got up right out of my chair and shouted, “Hallelujah! Another convert!” Somebody is going to look out at the world! Somebody is going to look at these mountains! Somebody is going actually to look at human beings and see them with all their majestic potential of becoming citizens of a city not made with hands. Somebody is going to see them, not as elements in production, but as creatures of the new creation. Somebody is going to see them as the poetry of God's heaven, and say, “I don't care about the schedule. Let's go have coffee. I want to hear what you have to say.” Somebody is going to live with them in depth, and is going to touch and be touched by them, and is going to be raised by them and get a taste of what blessedness really is going to be like. In short, somebody is going to begin to live in the world of God's creation as it ultimately will be, right now. And out of that, somebody is going to gather the strength to be able to say to the garbage-in-garbage-out syndrome, “I'm sorry, I don't have time for that kind of stuff. I'm engaged in real enterprises. There are real things I want to do.” If our programs and techniques of management prevent this from happening, they must be gotten rid of or reevaluated for the sake of the gospel and the church's ministry.

Zenos E. Hawkinson (1925-1997), “Managing” (1978)
From Anatomy of the Pilgrim Experience: Reflections on Being a Covenanter, Edited by Philip J. Anderson and David E. Hawkinson (2000), p. 56.

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