Formations 10.31.2021: Rhythms of Creation

Psalm 104:1-4, 10-15, 19-24, 27-33

I grew up in the suburbs, but my parents both grew up in rural Kentucky, and that’s still where a lot of my cousins live. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve sitting at my Aunt Myrtle’s table and feasting on home-cooked vegetables straight from my Uncle Carl’s garden.

My wife grew up a few counties over from my parents’ families. Her dad kept a garden of his own and cut and stripped tobacco every fall to help make ends meet.

I can’t speak with authority about what it’s like to live on or near farms. At best, it’s something I have brushed up against every now and then. That makes me fairly average for a twenty-first century American, I think. But it also drives home how different our world is today from the world of the Bible.

To be honest, even a few generations ago, our ancestors lived in a world that was much closer to the earth and attuned to the rhythms of creation. Survival—to say nothing of prosperity—hinged on factors beyond human control. The rain needs to fall at the proper times. The sun needs to shine. The temperature can’t get too high or too low. An early frost might mean disaster for an entire community.

It’s not hard to imagine how people who live in that kind of world would sense their vulnerability to the elements and their dependency upon God’s blessings.

In Psalm 104, the psalmist praises God for having established the earth and all the good things the earth produces: springs of water, grassy fields, cattle, darkness and light, the seasons. Truly “the earth is satisfied with the fruit of [God’s] work” (v. 13). For all these things, the psalmist extols the Lord and will continue to do so as long as he lives.

Today’s lesson invites us to explore the amazing complexity of the earth and its ecology: the water cycle, the procession of seasons, the sun and the moon, and how all of these things combine to provide for human needs such as wine, oil, and bread (v. 15).

Soon, Americans will observe Thanksgiving. Whatever we might say about the dark history of relations between European settlers and the peoples who already lived here, thanking God for the gifts of the good earth will always be a commendable practice.

Especially for those of us whose horizons rarely escape the city limits, doing so is a vital spiritual discipline.

Discussion

• What specific blessings of the created order are mentioned in this passage? For which of these are you most grateful, and why?
• What can we learn from the natural cycles and rhythms of God’s creation?
• How can we better respect these rhythms in our daily lives?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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