In my high school grade 12 literature class, we studied the poem “Trees,” by the American poet Joyce Kilmer. I still remember four of the lines:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.
I love the imagery of a tree lifting its leafy branches in prayer to God.
Psalm 104 is a splendid hymn praising God the creator. In this psalm, not only the trees, but also the wind and water and storks and mountains and wild asses and goats and lions and sun and moon and darkness praise God. Even the Leviathan—that dangerous sea monster, representing the dark forces of chaos—knows its Creator. It splashes around like a toddler in a wading pool under the serene, benevolent gaze of God.
But God is not detached from the creation, the Psalmist says. God is engaged with it as its sustainer, continually breathing into it life. And God acts to renew the creation, and one day will free it completely from its “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21).
Our worship at Ball’s Falls this Sunday, June 22, will allow us to experience first-hand the glories of God’s creation. It will invite us to remember the God who has created everything.
As we gaze at those trees with their uplifted arms, let us also consider raising our arms and hearts in praise and thanks to God, who created, sustains and renews the world, including us.
I grew up in a church that had a picnic every year in June at Macfarland Park in Niagara on the Lake. It was one of my favorite days of the year!
Church picnics were startling for me, because I got to see people in regular clothes. The church I attended was very formal and all the men wore suits, and the women were very dressed up. Church picnic was the one time of the year I saw some of these people wearing regular clothes… Mr. Giesbrecht in shorts and a t-shirt! I don’t know why I remember that, but it was funny to me at the time!
I also grew up in a church that looked like an ark. It had only high windows, and it had a wall that separated the building from the road. When you went to church, it felt like you were hiding away. To go outside and have a worship service in a public place seemed strangely exposed and even brave. Here we are, praying in public. Here we are singing hymns for anyone to hear. Here we are listening to a sermon in public. That made an impression on me too.
But most of all I remember the trees. Big green leafy trees swaying all around us. Instead of looking up and staring at the light fixtures during the sermon, I could see the world alive and vibrant. Birds zooming around, planes in the sky, wind blowing through our hair. The word of God in tune with everything around us.
And did I mention the ice cream?
This week’s prayer: Bless our church picnic this year, in tune with everything around us!
I have very vivid memories of church picnics from when I was a kid. The memories almost all centre around games and food. I remember the excitement of races; three-legged, sack and wheelbarrow (and the pain as we invariably fell or got trampled in the stampede). I remember the ice cream cups with the little wooden paddles that came out after the hot dog bbq. Picnics were so strange because it was so startling to see people in regular clothes, after only seeing them in their Sunday best for a whole year! It was different meeting people around a picnic table than in the foyer of the church.
This Sunday we will be worshipping outside at Ball’s Falls for our church picnic. I’m looking forward to the chance to be under God’s good sun, worshipping together. To let our music join with the music of the wind in the trees, and the sound of the Twenty Mile Creek. To sit and play together, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a time where the oldsters and the youngsters can rub shoulders around the picnic tables. It’s a time to be a community together in a different setting. I look forward to seeing you there!
This week’s prayer: Thank you for the freedom we have to worship openly, inside and outside. We pray for churches that must worship in secret, and do not have the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.
What do ants, rock badgers, locusts, lizards and snakes all have in common? Give up? They are all creatures associated with wisdom in the Bible. See Proverbs 30:24-28 and Matthew 10:16. It’s a bit surprising, actually, especially the snake part. I associate wisdom with owls…probably from children’s stories that talked about the wise old owl. If you grew up in St. Catharines, maybe you remember the big owls carved on the top of the pillars of the old library. Those owls are still the symbol of the library.
I wonder why owls have been associated with wisdom. Maybe because they have very good eyesight and can see in the dark. Maybe because they are pretty quiet and have excellent hearing. Maybe because they always ask, “Who, who”! Interestingly, in some cultures owls are seen as symbols of foolishness or death!
This week in our service we are going to be thinking about wisdom. Who has it? Where do we find it? How do you know if something or someone is wise? We will also be praying for wisdom. Where do you need wisdom in your life?
Today’s prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I feel God’s presence when I am in nature…,” and then they go on to relate some serene experience on a mountain or lake. But there’s another side of nature that is ferocious and unstoppable. Where is God in the tornado or the earthquake or the tsunami?
Growing up I was always scared of thunderstorms. But when I was in my late teens, I decided to confront this fear head on. “I understand something about God when the world is peaceful and beautiful,” I reasoned, “so what am I supposed to learn from the storm?” I was working at a camp in Southern Manitoba, so one evening as a storm rolled in, I stayed on the dock as long as I dared, and felt the wind and wildness of the storm. After around an hour, I crept off the dock thinking some different thoughts about God.
This week we are beginning a sermon series called “Our God in Troubled Times”. This Sunday we’ll be asking questions about God’s presence in the face of stormy weather and natural disasters. Have you experienced troubled times? Drought or hail or frost that resulted in a crop failure? Have you been scared by a blizzard or hurricane? Has your home been threatened by wind or fire? Our God is a God for troubled times.
This week’s prayer: Give strength and wisdom to all who are working to help those affected by earthquakes…whether in Haiti or Chile or other parts of the world.
I took a mantel clock I inherited from my mother to a repair shop because it wasn’t working. It turned out it just needed a good cleaning. The repairman told me my clock was built in the 1930’s in Germany. He said, “Now that it’s cleaned, it should be good for thirty years or so.” Note to self: “2040. Take clock to be cleaned.”
The very same day I picked up the clock, I had spent a frustrating hour in the telephone store trying to buy a new battery for my two-year old cellphone. It turns out they don’t make batteries for a phone “that outdated”, as the clerk informed me. She showed me the vastly superior new models I could purchase.
How do I make faithful friendly-to-the-earth choices, in a world where so many tools I use are bound to be obsolete a few months after I purchase I them? I have resisted buying the latest things that come along, and have mostly only upgraded when something has broken down completely. But still, when I think of all the TVs, computers, tape recorders, stereos, telephones and digital whatevers that I have thrown away in the last twenty years, it would fill a good sized closet. Can you count how many computers your family has owned?
This Sunday we’ll be thinking about how our high-tech choices affect our relationship with God’s good earth, our mother earth.
Today’s prayer: Creator God, help me make creative choices about the technologies I use.