By Shawn McMullen
This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
The words of the hymn remind me that no matter where I am, when I lift up my voice in praise to God I am not alone. That in its own quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) way, the natural world joins me in worship.
I’ve praised God from the Rocky Mountains, standing on the Continental Divide while gazing awe-struck at majestic peaks in the distance. I’ve laid my pack on the pinnacle of Buzzard’s Rock in central Ohio, looked over a deep valley lush with summer vegetation, and raised my voice in worship with other hikers. I’ve praised him on sandy beaches at the edge of vast oceans. I’ve worshipped with reverence underneath an open shelter at a Christian camp in the heart of a pounding thunderstorm. I’ve sung his praises while tending my garden in a gentle spring rain.
Even as I worship on padded pews in a climate-controlled church building, the words of the hymn remind me that I’m accompanied by the natural world when I sing praises to God.
I wonder if King David’s understanding of how God is glorified in and by creation was rooted in the time he spent as a shepherd in the hills and fields of Bethlehem. From “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19) to “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23), David saw God in the world around him—and he saw how the world around him praised its Creator.
Thoughts like these may have led David to pen the words of another psalm: “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders. Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8). Every morning as the sun emerges on the horizon to run its daily course, God is glorified. Every evening as its light fades and the moon appears to cast its glow on the earth, God’s name is exalted.
And it isn’t just creation that honors God at times like these. How often have you watched pink and orange hues seep into the clouds at daybreak and paused to thank God for the grand spectacle? How often have you come to the end of a day and watched in wonder as the glowing sun sank below the horizon? Have you ever studied a shadow cast by the light of the moon, walked across a dew-dampened field at dawn, or emerged from a tent to stare into a night sky filled with glimmering stars? If you have, you probably felt a joyful song of praise well up in your heart to God.
We have many opportunities and many reasons to make a joyful noise to the Lord. And we never have to sing alone. The world around us beckons us to praise God, and in a manner of speaking, joins us as we do. As another hymn writer put it,
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain,
Call us to rejoice in Thee.
This editorial is adapted from one that first appeared in The Lookout on July 23, 2006.