I am once again borrowing a message from my good friend, Rev. Walter Albritton for this issue. After reading what Walter sent me, I felt that it was perfect for the season of Thanksgiving. It also contains some very good advice from a man who has served the Lord faithfully for a good number of years. As you may recall, Walter is one of the pastors at St. James United Methodist Church.
TAKE A BREAK AND ADMIRE THE HANDIWORK OF GOD
Many of us live in the fast lane. We live busy lives. Our schedules are so tight that we are often stressed out. Now and then it is helpful to slow and down and admire the universe. Teddy Roosevelt was a busy man. But he was also wise. He had a habit of going outside his home at night and gazing in amazement at the stars and galaxies. After a period of silence he would say to those who had joined him, “We can go inside now; I think we are small enough.” This exercise reminded him of the greatness of God and his own finitude.
One way to take a break and catch your breath is to read the Psalms in the Bible. There are 150 Psalms. Many of them celebrate the mighty power of God. The next time you pray, read the first verse of Psalm 104 as the beginning of your prayer: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty.” The body and the soul can be refreshed by meditating on the greatness of God. Take a few minutes and read the entire Psalm 104. Then go outside and take a fresh look at the moon and the stars. Give thanks for the magnificent glory of God displayed in the heavens. And give thanks for Stuart K. Hine. The song, “How Great Thou Art,” must have come to him on a star-lit night.
Take a few deep breaths and let God stir your heart as he stirred Hine’s heart, inspiring him to exclaim “O Lord my God! when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed.” God in all his creative glory is the focus of Psalm 104. Other psalms bring us to our knees in repentance. Still others give us assurance that in all circumstances the Lord is with us. Celebrating God’s creative power and glory can awaken a song in our souls and move us to “bow in humble adoration” and proclaim with Stuart Hine, “My God, how great thou art!”
The 104th Psalm is also a song of praise. It ends where it begins with the words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.” There is no lament about pain or evil. Instead the writer is so filled with awe and wonder that he insists, “I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
His awe and wonder spring from his conclusion that only a great and mighty God could have designed the world with such precision, purpose, rhythm and beauty. There is life-giving water controlled by boundaries engineered by the hands of God. There are majestic mountains and fertile valleys. There are majestic trees that are useful to humankind.
Singing birds have nests in the trees. Grass is provided for the cattle. The earth offers bread and fruit to gladden the hearts of men and women. Even the wild donkeys and wild goats have a habitat. Sustenance is offered to mankind and all living creatures by the gracious hand of God: “When you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”
We should not miss observing that though the Psalmist is awed by the greatness of God, he never moves to despair about the “smallness” of human beings. Indeed he suggests that his meditation upon God’s greatness can be pleasing to God. This is an important truth. It gives us a positive perspective about the creative power of God. We are made in the image of God. Therefore, we have God-given creative potential that we can use to manage wisely the “works” of God’s hands. He has given his children the gift of, and the urge for, creativity. We can obey God by living as good stewards of the gifts of his creation.
We can look for ways to cooperate with the natural laws of the created universe. For example, NASA engineers were able to land a spaceship on the moon because they could calculate exactly where the moon would be at any given point in time. We have learned that neither God nor his universe is characterized by whimsical decisions. That is why we can trust God with our whole heart; he is never capricious. He is always faithful and everything he does is motivated by love because his nature is love.
Since God is love, we may conclude that even the creative majesty of the world has been created not by chance but for our enjoyment. God made us with the wondrous capacity to view with breathtaking wonder the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls and similar displays of his handiwork. We can view a magnificent sunset and with thankful hearts praise God for giving us eyes to behold such beauty, and hearts that can be touched by the gentle work of his fingers. When I saw Iguazu Falls in South America for the first time, my heart was filled with praise for God as I prayed, “Thank you Lord for loving me so much that you allowed me to see this display of your glory with my own eyes.” For me that breathtaking beauty was not an act of something called Nature, but an act of a loving Creator who delights in displaying creative splendor for his children to behold with wonder.
Geologists can explain why over centuries all that water now converges on that site shared by Brazil and Argentina. I prefer, however, a theological perspective – that the earth and the heavens display the glory of God for the enjoyment of his children, and so they may realize that as awesome as are the gifts of his hands, even more awesome is the gift of his love that caused him to send his Son to redeem us from our sins. We shall be wise now and then to get off the merry-go-round long enough to admire God’s handiwork and in awesome wonder cry with the Psalmist, “Praise the Lord, O my soul!”
All I can add to Walter’s message is Amen! Coming just after Thanksgiving and as we head toward Christmas, each of us needs to hear these words. We have so very much to be thankful for and it’s important to understand where our blessings come from. May God bless each of you, your families and co-workers as we will soon be entering the Advent season.
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