Earth Day: All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voices, let us sing: Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beams, thou silver moon that gently gleams,
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong, ye clouds that sail in heaven along, O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice, ye lights of evening, find a voice,
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear, make music for thy Lord to hear, Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright, that givest man both warmth and light,
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Dear mother earth, who day by day unfoldest blessings on our way, O praise him, Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow, let them his glory also show:
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart, forgiving others, take your part, O sing ye Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, praise God and on him cast your care:
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And thou, most kind and gentle death, waiting to hush our latest breath, O praise him, Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod:
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless, and worship him in humbleness, O praise him, Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

This hymn, a paraphrase of St. Francis of Assisi'
s "Canticle of the Sun," gets at the heart of the connection between faith and care of the earth. A moving text, the stanzas praise God for the whole expanse of creation - the earth and sea and sky, all the life therein, and even the beauty of death. But more than just a beautiful hymn of creation, this text reveals how God's promise of salvation and restoration follows in line with God's declaration at creation, "It is good!" We of tender heart can forgive others and bear our sufferings because God sent Christ to save and restore the creation to wholeness. We can thus our creator bless, because we live into this salvation and restoration - we praise God as liberated, restored, and saved people, and care for the world that God has created and has promised to restore:
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. (Genesis 2:4b-10)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." (Revelation 21:1-5a)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
The stained glass window above is the creation window from Boe Chapel, on the St. Olaf College campus. Boe Chapel boasts a number of beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring windows; this one was by far my favorite. I love the picture of the creation swirling around the creator - its existence and its purpose centered on the goodness of the creator and redeemer. To me, it is a visual reminder that God cares for the whole of the creation, and that we are never far from God's presence. In the description of this window, it reminds us that in creation, "the stage is set for the promise and fulfillment of God’s redemptive work in history." How beautiful a thing to know that the good news of God in Christ was rooted in the very swirling waters of creation!

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