Psalm 104: 24 – 35
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit,[a] they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!
It was a science story made for the headlines: a monster, more than a thousand years of mystery and maybe, finally, an answer.
Neil Gemmell had that potential for publicity in mind when he led a team of scientists to look for DNA from the elusive Loch Ness Monster — and again when that team announced Thursday that a large eel could be behind all the speculation.
“I am unashamedly using the monster as a way to attract interest so I can talk about the science I want to talk about,” the geneticist and professor [said].
More than a thousand Loch Ness Monster encounters are recorded in an official “Sightings Register.” The reports go back as far as 565 A.D., when an Irish saint is said to have saved a man from being attacked by a river monster. …
In fact, after Gemmell’s announcement landed, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “yearns to believe” in the Loch Ness Monster, according to PA Media, which reported Friday:
The Prime Minister said he had wanted the mythical creature to be real when he was child, adding “part of me still does.”…
Gemmell and his colleagues say they can use science to rule out some of the ideas after analyzing DNA in 250 water samples from Loch Ness. …
“The remaining theory that we cannot refute based on the environmental DNA data obtained is that what people are seeing is a very large eel,” the team wrote on its website explaining the findings.
It’s still unclear, the scientists said, whether the loch contains an eel big enough to account for descriptions of a monster. …
Gemmell is not sure he will be involved in any further investigation to back up the eel hypothesis. He said he’s achieved what he wanted with a project that’s captured the public imagination like no other study he’s published. Last year, he said, the scientists’ work at Loch Ness generated about 3,000 media stories within a few weeks — before they had made a single finding.
At first, Gemmell said, he worried that an exhaustive investigation into Loch Ness was silly.
But then he talked to his 9-year-old son, who told his friends, who thought the project sounded awesome. After seeing the children’s fascination, Gemmell realized that taking a serious scientific look at the famous loch could stir up public interest in techniques to track biodiversity.
Gemmell’s team took advantage of “environmental DNA,” the genetic material that creatures leave in their surroundings. This “eDNA” lets scientists learn about habitats without disrupting them and harming the animals they’re trying to study…
The strategy will “make a real difference in how we monitor and protect the world’s increasingly fragile ecosystems,” they write.
A Travel Channel documentary on the team’s work airing in Britain and the United States later this month will bring the project to an even broader audience.
“Loch Ness attracts people in a way that few other things ever could,” Gemmell said.
We are almost comically eager to find proof of power and wonder in the world, aren’t we? We are ever so hopeful for something to see, something to hang onto. Especially as life feels more chaotic – though, truth be told, it always has been, just differently – we long for that which can settle us, calm us, give us rootedness and strength – in our spirits, in our families, in our communities, in the world.
News flash, says the psalmist: Look around. Look around! (And all the HamiltonHeads are singing ‘How lucky we are to be alive right now!’)(Which is true!)
Psalm 104 opens – and closes – blessing God for … being who God is. The psalmist looks around and simply recites what he sees as evidence of the wonder of God at work in the world:
- the heavens; the waters; the clouds; the winds; fire and flame
- water (again); mountains; valleys; springs
- wild animals; streams; birds; grass; cattle; plants
- food and wine, coming from those things; oil and bread; trees
- birds (again); mountains (again); goats; the moon; the sun
- seasons; darkness; lions; annnnnnd: people.
And then, just in our verses for today, we get to:
- manifold works; wise making; a creature-full earth; the great and wide sea
- innumerable creeping things; things small and great
- ships; Leviathan
- food in season; given and gathered; breath that fills all; spirit that creates and renews
- enduring glory; trembling earth; smoking mountains
- singing of praise; pleasing meditation; dissolving of opposition
and ending, as it began, with blessing the Lord.
The psalmist’s point is this: We need only to look at what’s right here around us to know that GOD is around us, in us, beside us: creating, filling, empowering, renewing.
We’re looking for evidence of who God is? We have it.
Present. Powerful. Absolutely steady. And yet still somehow always moving.
What we see of the natural created world – the power of wind, the persistence of water, the sustenance of roots, the vastness of sky, the color of wildflowers, the grandeur of mountains, the wideness of plains – is what we see in God: the power of forgiveness, the persistence of grace, the sustenance of compassion, the vastness of possibility, the color of diverse gifts, the grandeur of overcoming death, the wideness of mercy.
All we need to know of God, we see in the created order. And that includes the human part of the world. We are listed among the psalm’s elements within creation, that which reveals the Creator. But very intentionally, I think, AMONG it … not ahead of it, not over it, not set apart from it. Among creation is humanity.
What we see in each other can show us the face of God as well.
My dear friend Bill Stagg died Friday night. A life lived at greater speed, with more heart, and deeper love than any dozen people I know, the last few years of Bill’s life were in the mountains of Colorado.
I met Bill and Kim years ago when I lived in Indianapolis. In a long chain of one friend who introduced a friend who brought another friend who found yet another for the circle, Bill and Kim – and it is always Bill-and-Kim – were hosting a house concert the night we met. Fans of live music, especially blues and guitar, Bill and Kim gathered friends, who gathered friends, who rolled up living room rugs and opened up back yards, who brought snacks and iced beverages and were all immediately the dearest of friends, and felt like family, because loving people well means doing everything you can to get them together and to help them do the things they love most and be the people they’re made to be. I met them that night and we had already been dearest friends for our entire lives.
Recently retired from a decades-long career in the national offices of the FFA, Bill and his beloved Kimberley found a beautiful place in Ridgway, with a porch for gathering, and a view for cherishing, and trails for wandering, all while music would play. The last year of Bill’s life, esophageal cancer wracked his body, but never his spirit. Even with surgeries and feeding tubes and fistulas and emergencies and uncertainties and setbacks and months in the hospital and few days at home and small improvements and returning troubles, Bill’s spirit remained strong, his friends remained close, music remained central, and love carried him til the last, and carries those of us who loved him, still.
Who is your Bill Stagg? Who sees you as theirs?
What we see of the natural created world is what we see in God. What we see in each other shows us the face of God as well.
How are we gathering people in?
What do we say, by what we do, about who God is, and who God loves?
How are we welcoming those who come to us? Are we making room, getting the music going, seeing that there’s enough to go around, making every effort to help folks meet each other, and rejoicing when they back the next time?
What do we say, by who we include, about who God is, and who God loves?
Do we show others what it means to be outspoken, courageous and hopeful?
What do we say, by what we say, about who God is, and what God loves?
As the natural created order does for us, are we – creatures ourselves, part of the created order – are we revealing the Creator to all who stop to look around? What do we say, how far do we go, to reveal the wideness, the wildness, and the wonder of who and how and what God is, and what God loves?
Scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, and professor to generations of preachers, Walter Brueggemann points out that in this psalm, the name of God is almost entirely absent. The Holy One is addressed in the opening and closing lines, but aside from that, the weight of the text celebrates the “order, symmetry, and majesty of creation” – it reminds us of what we learn of the Creator when we experience the Creation.
In this poetic recitation, as the elements of nature are paired with the nature of God, we see that “the whole world is daily dependent on God’s sustenance, God’s face, God’s presence, God’s breath. The world is impressive and to be celebrated. But it has no independent existence. … All of that is daily gift.”
When we remember this – when we remember how well God has provided for us in the world, and how the promises of God’s provision are as full as the sea and as wide as the heavens – we, with the psalmist, are “moved to spontaneous wonder, gratitude, and praise.” This psalm reminds us that these gifts are daily, moment by moment, for us, from the gracious hand of the Holy. This psalm reminds us to take “a personal delight in God’s goodness.”
The idea here isn’t to say that God is pulling every lever and turning every dial. Instead the intent is to root ourselves in knowledge of the Creator … not just knowing about the Creator, but everything that exists – including nature, including other people, including us – is our way of knowing, being in relationship with, caring about, being cared for by the One Who Creates and sets in motion everything in the world, from the smallest to the largest detail.
It is easy, in the busy-ness and strain of day to day life – waiting for test results, praying over strained relationships, making hard decisions about care-giving, or being in a position where someone else is making decisions for you, parenting young children, parenting adult children, choosing as best we can for health and finances and futures, and doing it all amid political chaos, social instability, and flat-out dangerous days – it is easy to retreat, to close our eyes, to harden our hearts, to numb our spirits … to see and feel and do less and less for fear that things are only going from bad to worse.
This psalm says otherwise. And this psalm says that the world shows us otherwise. IF WE WILL SEE IT.
The psalmist does! “The fundamental aim [of the psalm] to give thanks and praise is never lost because it is both the beginning and ending word (‘Bless the Lord, O my soul’).” (41)
When we care for the earth with simple recycling, gardening, planting trees, and paying attention to how we spend and what we consume … we are honoring the Creator and saying that we know our place is among the created order, not on top of it.
When we take Kevin’s suggestion from last week and take a hike … or just simply go outside and look around, look up, look out, instead of always only staying in and looking down … when we take the advice of the National Park Service when they say that nature makes you smarter, stronger, healthier, happier, and more productive … we are connecting one on one with the very earth that sustains us. When we take someone with us, the benefits more than double.
When we show our respect for a place, and for the people in it …
when we park farther away so that someone who needs the shorter walk can have the closer spot …
when we arrive a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late so we have a full experience and not just the bare minimum …
when we hold a tray to serve, instead of simply passing a tray to move it along …
when we make a pledge and bring an offering, and consider it an act of worship and not just a financial obligation …
when we ask ‘how are you’ and take a moment to really listen to an honest response …
we are adoring the Creator and tending to the very soul of the human creation.
“In [the middle of our text today] the Hebrew verbs are in what scholars call ‘the imperfect form’. This implies action that is not yet complete. … creation is not just an ‘event’ of the distant past. It is something that goes on even now. In the words of this psalm God continues to bring creation to fullness through sustaining it, providing for it and enjoying it. In our own life-building activities, our ‘mission’ in Christian terms, whether it be in creating opportunities for life-giving experiences or in opposing wickedness and evil where we find it, we participate in God’s ongoing creative activity.”
When we hear the oceans crash, or stand in awe of surprising stillness, we remember God’s power.
When we make use of the gifts we’ve been given, we remember our own.
When we see the colors of a sunrise, we are in awe of God’s handiwork.
When we offer and receive the gentle gifts of listening and caring, we remember that we are artists too.
When we study the words of scripture and recall the stories of faith, we are reminded of God’s work in the world, and in people, in all times, toward God’s purpose.
When we not only welcome but encourage and celebrate the gifts, wonder, and full participation of young and old, women and men, gay and straight, able and challenged, like us and not like us, the questioning and the confident, we are doing the work of God in the world.
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
When you give to them, they gather it up;
When you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing my praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
For I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!
 “The Loch Ness Monster is still a mystery. But scientists have some new evidence for a theory.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/09/06/loch-ness-monster-is-still-mystery-scientists-have-some-new-evidence-theory/
 Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary, p31-32
 Patrick D Miller Jr, Interpreting the Psalms, p41
 “Nature Makes You…” https://www.nps.gov/articles/naturesbenefits.htm?fbclid=IwAR3lqxbS77jtkmuVd66TwvVr1NPIKuibqFm3ln7BjNVH18U7z7Ofnbs0vYc
 Year C: Day of Pentecost, May 19, 2013, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/EasterC/PentecostPsalm.html