Monday Matters (May 20, 2024)


Psalm 104:25-35, 37

25 O Lord, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

26 Yonder is the great and wide sea with its living things too many to number,
creatures both small and great.

27 There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan,
which you have made for the sport of it.

28 All of them look to you to give them their food in due season.

29 You give it to them; they gather it;
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.

30 You hide your face, and they are terrified;
you take away their breath, and they die and return to their dust.

31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

32 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.

33 He looks at the earth and it trembles;
he touches the mountains and they smoke.

34 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will praise my God while I have my being.

35 May these words of mine please him;
I will rejoice in the Lord.

37 Bless the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah!

This year, Monday Matters will focus on wisdom conveyed in the treasures of the book of Psalms. We’ll look at the psalms read in church before Monday Matters comes to your screen.

The Levity of the Leviathan

A friend says that she believes in God because of tropical fish. She thinks that the creative intentionality revealed in the great variety and great beauty within her fish tank attested to divine hand.

Her comments came to mind as I read the psalm heard in church yesterday (see above). It’s a psalm celebrating God’s creative work in its great variety. Among all the things God created, the psalmist cites the leviathan (a.k.a., a whale). The psalm tells us that God came up with that creature simply for the sport of it. Just because it was fun. Just because it brought joy. Just because it was amazing.

Creation could have simply been functional. I’m no scientist, but if it was all just mechanistic, inevitable evolution I’m not sure we’d have experienced the levity of the leviathan. This psalm comes to remind us, as we celebrated Pentecost yesterday, that the Spirit is at work in all of creation (See Proverbs 8:22-31 for a discussion of the way the Spirit has worked in creation.)

All of which is to note that a big part of faithful life is living in amazement. Abraham Heschel put it this way: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal. Everything is incredible. Never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.’

What does it say if we refuse to be amazed? Do we take the marvel of creation for granted? Does that suggest a lack of gratitude? Does it mean our lives are not filled with levity or wonder?

Over the years, the biblical refrain that we are to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness has come to mean more and more to me. It says that God’s intention in creation is to bring holy beauty into a world where there is plenty of ugliness. It does not deny the ugliness. Rather, it serves as a reminder that the God of creation cares how we look at the world.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Albert Einstein noted that we can look at the world in two ways. Either nothing is miracle or everything is miracle. So, a life lived with radical amazement accomplishes what?

It means we live our lives with a sense of gratitude, mindful of the amazing grace that surrounds us, not the least of which is divine love from which we cannot be separated.

It means we live our lives with a healthy sense of humility. Not the kind of humility that makes us a doormat for Christ (or others), but with the sense of life unfolding in the presence of a power greater than ourselves.

It means we live our lives with a sense of joy and wonder, perhaps the same joy that the creator experienced in making up the idea of a whale. That joy can sustain us through all that is not wonderful, all that seems less than amazing, all that is boring.

What amazes you? May this Monday, and this week, be marked by that holy sense of amazement. Keep your eyes open for that which you find amazing.

-Jay Sidebotham

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