Psalm 104: Beautiful Creator

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, February 8, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 104, a lyrical hymn of praise for the wonders of Creation. As I write this morning, an ermine snow coats the evergreens in soft white feathers. There is a quiet whisper in the trees, like God might make while sleeping

To prepare for prayer, I turn to my favorite theologian who writes extensively about Psalm 104 in his book, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms.

I have outlined my reading here for those who might like to approach Psalm 104 from Brueggemann’s perspective. If you benefit from his work, I highly recommend his book:

From Walter Brueggemann:

Psalm 104 divides roughly into two parts. The first part (vv. 1–24) provides an inventory of the components of creation, framed by a doxological formula. I suggest that inventory framed by doxology (praise prayer) is a good way to begin our thinking about creation.


In the second half of the poem, verses 25–35, we are offered four themes that may serve as reference points as we trace the paradigmatic power and significance of creation:

  1. Creation and Chaos
    These verses attest to the reliable, generative ordering of creation that makes use of all available creaturely possibilities.

There is the sea, great and wide!
It teems with countless beings,
living things both large and small.
There ships ply their course
and Leviathan,* whom you formed to play with.

Psalm 104: 25-26
  1. Creation and Provision

The creator “gives, gives, opens”; the creatures “gather, receive, eat,” and “are filled.” This transaction between the giver and the recipients is endless, reliable, and necessary. The creatures are always on the receiving end of the generous giving of the creator.

These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
when you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are filled with good things.

Psalm 104: 27-28
  1. Creation and Ruach

“Rauch” is a Hebrew word which images God as a breath, a wind, or a life force that sustains all living things, human beings included. in Psalm 104, “rauch” describes God’s generous, life-initiating, life-sustaining gift of vitality without which no creature can live:

When you hide your face, they panic.
Take away their breath, they perish
and return to the dust.
Send forth your spirit, they are created
and you renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 104: 29-30
  1. Creation and Righteous Judgement 

Righteousness is glad acceptance of the good ordering of reality given and guaranteed by the creator, an ordering that culminates in confident Sabbath from all our destructive drives for self-worth.

May sinners vanish from the earth,
and the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, my soul! Hallelujah!

Psalm 104: 35

My humble prayer, wrought in light of Brueggemann’s elegant theology is this:

I praise and thank You, God, for the wonder of Creation.
I am in awe of your Power to order all things toward Beauty.
From that balance of beauty and power,
you offer me the joys and challenges of life.
You sustain and nourish me, even in the overwhelming times.
I want to respond fully and gratefully
to your creative power in my life and in our world.
Please give me clarity and courage
to live within your life-giving creative Grace.

Amen


Poetry: The Creation by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)


And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!

Then God himself stepped down—

And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.

Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;

Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen.

Music: Creation Song – Fernando Ortega

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