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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, May 16, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

 “For the Beauty of the Earth” (vv. 1–2) by Folliott Sanford Pierpont
Hymn 14, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

This hymn could be heard from June through August at the summer camp I attended, particularly during the evening Vesper services, as the sun set over Lake Michigan. Picture us there, hundreds of us, singing “For the beauty of the earth; for the love which from our birth” on Vesper Dune, in a space set apart, in a holy time of day set apart, praising God for the beauty of the earth while watching brilliant sunset colors fill the sky and stretch across the water. It was a sabbath pause for reflecting on God’s creation.

Creation, after all, is the Bible’s first story: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” begins Genesis, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” But embedded in the act of creation is a pause: “And on the seventh day God ended his work; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.”

I’ve come to value the beauty found in sabbath pauses, especially when that sabbath pause is a natural, undeveloped place, where birds don’t fly into windows they mistake for the open sky, where fish swim in clean waters, and where humans can not only see and experience the beauty of the earth but also be moved by it. ‘

We are indebted to organizations that set aside land—and allow us to experience beauty in sabbath pauses. Many operate on shoestring budgets. Forest and dune preserves. Summer camps, where children explore the miracles of nature and listen to wind in the trees. State and national parks. Wilderness training schools, where youth and adults learn outdoor leadership skills. Will all of these groups survive the economic challenges brought by the coronavirus? It may be an act of sabbath to help them do so.

“God of the waters, God of the skies, show us thy beauty, open our eyes. God of the darkness, God of the dawn, into thy Beauty lure us on. Lure us on.” Amen.

(Prayer: a song by Kodaya)

Reflection by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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