“Bless the Lord, O My Soul” from All Night Vigil by Sergei Rachmaninov
Bless the Lord, O my soul, blessed art thou, O Lord.
O Lord my God, thou art very great.
Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Blessed art thou, O Lord.
The waters stand upon the mountains.
Marvellous are thy works, O Lord.
In wisdom hast thou made all things.
Glory to thee, O Lord, who hast created all.
Excerpts from Psalm 103, 104
We live in a more connected society than ever before. Even in the midst of a pandemic that keeps us physically distanced from one another, that statement rings true. My whole family lives in Texas, and I can pick up a phone and call them any time. A group of church music peers that I meet with once a month Zoom in from Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas. I am playing online chess matches with strangers in Saudi Arabia and France.
Amidst all of this connection to one another, however, I think we would all agree that none of those virtual links quite measure up to the “real deal” of spending time with one another in person. Clearly, God felt this way as well, since He sent His son to Earth to spend time with us, as one of us, because He so dearly loved us.
In this way, I have sometimes felt a little historically slighted that I did not live in Jerusalem around approximately AD 30. Surely, meeting Jesus, seeing His miracles, hearing His parables in person must have been the deepest, realest connection to the divine that a person could ever be afforded, right? To, like the woman in Luke 8:40-48, reach out and even touch the hem of His garment must have been as sacred as stepping into the Holy of Holies.
But here we are in 2021 in America. Oceans and eras removed from those holy 3 years of ministry that changed the world forever, and all too often feeling like we are that far from our God, too. Sure, we can reach Him through prayer and scripture study, but, boy, it sure seems like He doesn’t check His Prayer-mail as often as we’d like. And though these are very real and very important ways to access the divine, it can sometimes feel more like a spiritual Zoom call than a face-to-face encounter with our King of Kings.
Sometimes, we might crave something more physical, more tangible in our relationship with God, and this text gives us a good hint as to where to find that – the wonder of His creation! God’s works are marvelous and good, and one of the most encompassing visions of how He loves us.
This type of engaging with the spiritual is supported from so many angles, too! Countless bible verses point to a connection between God and nature and us (see how often Christ uses nature in a parable). Now, science, through the growing field of ecopsychology, explores the importance of spending time in and with nature (2 hours a week being the recommended minimum according to a University of Exeter study). And even more basic, every person over the age of 5 has heard the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses,” but how often do we actually do it!? More to the point, why do we not recognize its spiritual significance?
God’s handiwork is meant to be appreciated and understood in manners beyond the mental and intellectual. Thus, we must work to find new ways to engage with our faith besides those entrenched in philosophy and theology. God is not just God of the mind and the spirit, but of the physical as well. As mentioned before, He manifested His son to prove that very point.
In the enjoyment and cultivation of God’s creation, we are interacting with our Father in Heaven in a very real, physical, even mystical way. Though it can be a challenge to find God somewhere new, it is always worth the search. We just might find that He has been closer than we thought all along.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church