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The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it. Psalm 24:1
Last week, like many others this autumn, I went to an apple orchard to pick apples. I was so happy to walk on dirt and not concrete that I went to the pumpkin patch and just laid on the ground watching the clouds in the sky. As I laid there I thought of a class I took in seminary called “The Earth is the Lord’s” which Dr. Carol Bechtel taught. One of the texts for that class was written by Ellen Davis and it was called Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. The idea of the book was to help us read Scripture with the land as one of the main characters. I pay much more attention to how often the land is mentioned in Scripture now due to this class. I often find myself asking questions like: How is the land referenced in this passage? Who is talking about the land and in what way are they talking about the land? What is distinct about this land? What is God’s relationship with the land in this passage?
This Sunday is The Blessing of the Animals service at the church I serve and I am now taking the Scriptural concept I learned from Davis and applying it to animals. I find myself asking questions like: How often are animals referenced in Scripture? What role does the animal play in a particular story? How many different kinds of animals are present? What is God’s relationship to the animals? Genesis 1:20 is the first time Scripture mentions animals “And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” One estimate is that there is over 120 different animals mentioned in Scripture from gnats to lions to snakes to a donkey that carried Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.
This week at my soup kitchen I asked my homeless and hungry friends to read Psalm 148 together. A psalm of jubilant praise from all of creation, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” We noticed how all of creation joins in a chorus of praise by being who God made them to be and living accordingly. I invited them to let animals remind them of the joy of God’s presence. I said “Each time you see a dog, cat, or birds flying above remember this Psalm and join in the chorus of praise.” I did tell them how I have a difficult time understanding rats role in the chorus of praise and if they could figure it out this week to please let me know. They laughed.
Let me end with my favorite rendition of a hymn that many of us love and know well. Patty Griffin sings All Creatures of Our God and King and reminds us that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.