Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Psalm, Year C, Proper 9

Psalm 66
Be joyful in God, all you lands; * sing the glory of his Name; sing the glory of his praise.

Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! * because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.

All the earth bows down before you, * sings to you, sings out your Name."

Come now and see the works of God, * how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

He turned the sea into dry land, so that they went through the water on foot, * and there we rejoiced in him.

In his might he rules for ever; his eyes keep watch over the nations; * let no rebel rise up against him.

Bless our God, you peoples; * make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life, * and will not allow our feet to slip.

For you, O God, have proved us; * you have tried us just as silver is tried.

You brought us into the snare; * you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

You let enemies ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; * but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

I will enter your house with burnt-offerings and will pay you my vows, * which I promised with my lips and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.

I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts with the smoke of rams; * I will give you oxen and goats.

Come and listen, all you who fear God, * and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth, * and his praise was on my tongue.

If I had found evil in my heart, * the Lord would not have heard me;

But in truth God has heard me; * he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, * nor withheld his love from me.

Reflection on Psalm 66 by John Gibbs, PhD The liturgy of God’s People (in synagogue and church) is echoed by the liturgy of the Creation. “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth… All the earth worships you” (Ps. 66:1, 4 in the NRSV).

If that is true, then on this Sunday (close to or at July 4) in the United States especially, the People of God have every reason to reclaim their ecological responsibilities. Gratitude for the great “exodus” (Ps. 66:5-7), and for the mission of discipleship by God’s People (Luke 10), has never nullified the obligations of People to Land, and of Church to Creation. All Christians, no matter in what political party they may be active, have the privilege and duty of praising God by word and deed, both in how they live with their neighbors, and in how they live within the creation.

The necessary concentration of much of scripture on who we are called to be as disciples never set aside the works we are summoned to do. Who and what are here joined by the why. For what purpose are we here? Certainly not to destroy God’s good gifts of land, earth, water, air. It is for us, instead, to join the cosmic acclamation of the Creator, adding to that our own special experiences on ‘the Way” of journeying discipleship. Our purpose is to glorify God by loving neighbor (human and non-human alike), and singing God’s praises—often in wordless but heartfelt praise.

One indication of the importance of the Creation in theology is the circumstance that 4 of the 14 volumes in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics explore the doctrine of Creation. In a 270-page study of Genesis 1-2 (in volume III/1), he describes creation as “the outer basis of the covenant" (“usserer Grund des Bundes”), and the covenant as “the inner basis of the creation” (“innerer Grund der Schpfung”). Stanley Hauerwas is correct to claim: “For Barth, all of creation, and not humans alone, testifies in gratitude to the grace of the creator.” [With the Grain of the Universe (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2001), p. 167] God’s works among God’s People are of one piece with God’s works within the creation.

From entirely different presuppositions, and using a very different theological method, the great Anglican theologian William Temple gave his Gifford Lectures (in 1932-34) in 2 parts: “The Transcendence of the Immanent,” and “The Immanence of the Transcendent.” [Nature, Man, and God (London: Macmillan, 1951 reprint of 1934)] “The Sacramental Universe” titles his next-to-the-last chapter, wherein he argues that matter and spirit ought to be seen in their interaction and not simply in their distinctive difference. “It is in the sacramental view of the universe, both of its material and of its spiritual elements, that there is given hope of making human both politics and economics and of making actual both faith and love” (p. xxxi).

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To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Isaiah 66:10-16
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Psalm 66
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New Testament Galatians 6:(1-10)14-18
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Gospel Luke 10:1-12,16-20
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John Gibbs, PhD, is a retired theologian, who attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2004. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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