Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 16, 2024

Posted on June 17, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

June 16, 2024

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 104:1a, 10-28

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Last fall, I took a photography class at the Woodland Park Zoo. It sounded like fun – and it was, and it was also a good opportunity to practice using my camera with an instructor right there to help show me what I was doing wrong and what I could do better.

But what really caught my attention was that one of the objectives of the class was to heighten the participants’ awareness of wildlife in their own neighborhood, particularly in urban settings. And “wildlife” is defined as everything ranging from deer to rabbits to insects to birds. All of it.

Because when it comes to caring for animals and the “critters” of creation, there’s a wealth of information about threatened and endangered species throughout the world. But part of the zoo’s conservation program is raising awareness in our own community for the species in our midst that may not always be visible, and that we often take for granted.

With the idea being that that awareness leads to recognizing the relationship we have with animals and wildlife locally, so that we care for, literally, what’s living in our own back yard. Which, in turn, allows us to recognize our relationship with them in the larger created order as we seek to care for them there.

And it did heighten that awareness for me. I’ve shared with you that I frequently walk through my neighborhood. And while I always noticed the wildlife before, when I now share the sidewalk with the squirrels, birds, and occasional rabbit, I have a deepened appreciation for the life that lives among us.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve rooted creation care in the relationship that we as human beings have with God and all of creation. That relationship is present in the creation stories in Genesis, and in all the other scripture writings about creation including the Psalm we read today.

And these stories parallel and echo each other; there’s overlap in the imagery and even in the order of how God created the world. But each telling of the creation story, especially in the psalms, has a different emphasis.

The assigned reading for today is all of Psalm 104, but it’s kinda long, so I lifted out some of the central verses for us this morning. And, as always, I encourage you to read it in its entirety when you have time.

[1]This is a psalm of praise to God for creation. For that work. And as it is written here, creation is perfect. No one has to manage anything and nothing needs to be controlled. The system is working as it should. There’s a sense of delight.

Everything is alive and has energy. And there’s a sense of wellbeing because the psalmist isn’t just writing about the survival of creation, they’re writing about the joy of it. Nothing is lacking because God has provided everything that is needed: there is sufficient food, water, and shelter for all living things. Even humans.

And as we read this psalm, we can’t help but marvel at the harmony of the relationship between everything God created. The seamlessness of the interactions. And it helps us recognize that – as humans – humility, gratitude, joy, and praise are actions that raise our awareness of all that is in creation.

[2]And more than that, they’re the foundation for the sensitivity and action God gave us when we were entrusted with caring for creation. They motivate us to love and enjoy creation in all its majesty and diversity as much as God does.

They keep us mindful of the harmony of the relationship God calls us to have with the world around us as God works through us to care for it.

When we think about animals, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that they live in their own realm and we as humans live in ours, and that we’re completely separate from each other. We look at nature – things like trees, mountains, pastures or open meadows – and we enjoy their beauty and the resources they give us.

But within each of those places are bird nests, and rabbit dens, and deer, and holes where snakes and other crawling things live. And millions and millions of bugs above and below the ground! There’s life beyond the resources we can see.

And that life, that kingdom, is every bit as active as we are. And the animals that live in it are as valuable to God as we are, because God created them. And in their creation, we get a glimpse of God’s work.

And we come to understand that animals aren’t just passive creatures. They actively do God’s work just by their very existence. They move in the dirt, they crawl on rocks, fly, build nests, sing, slither, buzz, howl, moo, lay eggs. The babies want to be fed; and the parent feeds them so that they can grow. And the cycle continues.

When we as humans fail to recognize the value of the animals with whom we share the Earth, we miss out on experiencing the work that God has done and is doing among us. But even when we fail at that recognition, God’s work never fails.

Thomas Berry was a Catholic priest who is best known for being an eco-theologian. He believed that the relationships between humans and God, and humans with other humans, are dependent on humans recognizing our place in the structure of creation. That our ultimate concern as humans has to be the integrity of the universe on which we depend.

In other words, we need creation. It doesn’t need us. Without human interference, creation does what it does: it grows and thrives and flourishes.

So, it’s to our benefit to recognize that all of creation is a single community. Recognizing and accepting our limits in that community is the first step towards healing the damage humans have caused. Because it’s when we’ve accepted our limits that we can create continuity between human and non-human life across the board.

And in that continuity, we see God’s work, and we see that it never fails.

One of my favorite quotes about creation is attributed to Thomas Merton: “…the most meaningful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to ‘be’ once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.”

We hear that “ask” in the first birdsong at daybreak each morning. And it reminds us that human beings do not exist separate from the rest of the created order. We are part of it.

Part of the work of being human is recognizing the value of life in all its forms and our connection to it. Remembering that we share the same resources as the animals. For us, doing God’s work means making choices that benefit not only ourselves, but all of life.

That’s who God created us to be. [3]God created us to take responsibility for all creatures and work to preserve them. To delight in other creatures, as God does, and to care for them. To thrive together with them.

When we live into that – one photograph at a time, one step at a time, one back yard at a time – we experience the work God has done and continues to do in creation. We understand that God does that work in and through us. And God’s work never fails. Thanks be to God! Amen.



[3] Earth and Word: Blessing the Animals, pp 238-242