May 3, 2015

Church of Peace, United Church of Christ

Rev. Mariah Marlin-Warfield

Psalm 104:1, 14-35

Creativity Rising: Look Again

Acclaimed preacher Frederick Buechner put it like this: “Glory is what God looks like when for the time being all you have to look at him with is a pair of eyes.”[1] Glory is what God looks like when for the time being all you have to look at her with is a pair of eyes.

Today as we continue our Easter series called Creativity Rising; we hear the song of Psalm One-o-Four rise up and rejoice in the glory of God:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God you are very great.

You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment.”

And the glory of God keeps going, you can’t miss it. Right in this song, there’s a driving unfurling of the truth that proclaims God is not just great; God is greater. God is not just high above the earth; God is higher. Not just powerful, but more powerful. Not just the one who created, but the one is who is creating.

Now whatever you know to be true about God, it’s that and then some, then some more… It’s like God keeps pushing open our sense of what is possible. Our human imagination is ever expanding. Even then, even when we go out to look and see the presence of God, for real, with our own pair of eyes. Even then, God is more than what we see. Always more.

If this were the whole point of Psalm One-o-Four, that would be enough. If the whole song went, “Remember God is bigger than you.” I would sing that song. That’s the kind of truth that can save your life. And yet, that’s just the first part of the good news in this song. The second part goes like this, God is not just greater; God is not just higher; God is not just beyond and then some, God is here.

The LORD in the radiant splendor of all her glory gives a home to the animals and food to all the creatures. God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

Reading through Psalm One-o-Four, you can’t help but get swept up in its lush and soaring praise. God, whose mighty power we proclaim,  makes the grass grow for the cows. God lets the little birds build their nests in the well watered trees. God gives us bread to strengthen the human heart, wine to gladden the human heart.

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (104:24). You know the sheep and the rolling meadows, the stars and the starfish. See the glory of God in the fog lifting off the mountains, in the ocean all lit up by lightening. See God in a kitten falling asleep in a field of dandelions. Its head gets too heavy, and its little eyes squeeze shut. How great is our God.

You can’t look at this Psalm and not see its sweetness and light. And if this were the whole point of Psalm One-o-Four, that would be enough. If the whole song went, “God makes the plants and the cuddly animals, and God gives us our food.” I would sing that song. But look again, there is more. Always more.

See there is danger lurking inside these verses of praise, as if to suggest God might be tender, but he isn’t tame. Now please understand. The danger is not the threat the God loves all the animals. Who doesn’t love the idea of God who loves all the animals? But it’s not all the animals. It’s that God loves those animals. You know the ones. Even the ones who are monsters. And mean. And creepy.

The danger is not the threat that God loves all the people. Who doesn’t love the idea of God who loves all the people? But it’s not all the people. It’s that God loves those people. Even the ones who are monsters, and mean, and creepy… Even us.

We know how it goes. We human people draw our circles of insiders and outsiders. Usually it’s not even on purpose, but at some subconscious level, we harbor a hidden taxonomy. These are the people with whom I have affinity, but those people — I don’t even know them. This isn’t being racist on purpose. This isn’t being sexist on purpose, or homophobic, or Islamaphobic, or elitist. This doesn’t come from a place of hate. It doesn’t have to.

Again and again, I bump into the round edge of the circle I drew that I didn’t even mean to draw. It’s like one of those electric fences. I don’t notice it until I stumble against the border and I get offended or I get afraid. You can be offended without meaning to be. You can be afraid without choosing it, for a minute. First it’s a feeling. Then it’s a choice.

And maybe staying inside our own circle doesn’t sound so bad. I mean we already like the people here; we have a lot in common. Just give us that kitten falling asleep and let the world be all ugly and wild over there. Friends, I know I do this. I walk into a room full of people, and chances are, I’ll go sit down with the people I know.

But the problem with doing this is God. Look again at the LORD, and see, God does not stay inside anybody’s circle. Quite the opposite. Now there’s no way I can follow the LORD without leaving the yard. What if God calls us to be offended and afraid, and then keep going. What if the Holy Spirit loves those people too…

If we look again at Psalm One-o-Four, we’ll see it is not only about the glory of God, but also about his tender care. It’s not only about the sweet little birds and the seahorses frolicking underwater. Psalm One-o-Four praises the LORD who opens her hand to feed the terrible creatures of the wild — the storks and the wild goats.

The Bible says the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. Now the English word “coney” most likely refers to the hyrax. The hyrax is a little furry, round animal with a pointy face and a short tail. In my wikipedia research, I came upon this sentence which I just love. “[Hyrax] are often mistaken for rodents, but are more closely related to elephants.”[2] How’s that for boundary crossing! Mistaken for rodents, but more closely related to elephants. We have more in common with each other than we realize.

God loves the creatures of the sea. In the Bible, the waters are a symbol for chaos. In other scriptures, there are stories of God subduing and slaying the sea monsters to represent God defeating chaos. But not here. In this song, the sea monster Leviathan splashes and plays in the water, and God delights in this creature she made.

Remember the young lions who roar for their prey seeking their food from God.  About ten years ago, this story made a flurry in the news: A twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped in Ethiopia by four men. They beat her and made her travel with them. As if things couldn’t get worse, a pride of lions appeared on their path. The men fled, leaving the injured girl to be eaten. But the lions didn’t eat her.

The lions waited with her until police arrived and rescued her. Wildlife experts aren’t sure why they didn’t eat her. One theory is that her crying might have sounded like the cries of a baby lion…[3] God loves this young woman and those lions who stayed with her. God loves the police who found her and the family who missed her. God loves those men who abducted her on her way home from school.

Now even though it’s dangerous and offensive, Psalm One-o-Four entices us to go out and look. See the glory of God, the vast transcendence we could never fathom.

Look again and see: God’s love is for the littlest and least. He counts the whiskers on every kitten!

Look again and see: our God loves them, the wicked and the wounded.

Look again and see: there is no them, just more of us.

God’s eye is on the sparrow, I know she watches me. God watches our brothers in Guantanamo, our sisters who join ISIS. All of us who hurt, and hate, and help, and heal.

Now we can go on and be offended, and afraid, then keep going…

Let us pray:

O LORD how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all—

the stately giraffes and the tall trees whose leaves they eat

the cockroaches in our old apartment

—turn on the light, see them scurry and scatter on the walls.

You make the earth and the earthquakes

the rocks that come tumblin’ down

the avalanche that destroys

You know the names of the people who die

You worry about your children who walk home from school.

You worry about convicted sex offenders made homeless by laws, left to sleep under the overpass.

We know your power in the glory of the sky!

The galaxies are yours O God.

We know your presence in the clover that takes over our yard.

When you hide your face we are dismayed.

You take away our breath and we die and return to dust.

When you send forth your spirit, we are created.

You renew the face of the ground

and make all the world new.

Even those circles we draw-

Even us-

Teach us to look again at the chaos, and the ocean, and the news,

We look again and see your love, and there is more. Always more!

Bless the LORD, O my soul. Amen.




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