‘A gift beyond comparing’

It is gray and chilly as I write. Many of us are longing fervently for the warmth and sunshine of spring.

However late, we know that spring will come. And summer will follow. Despite the cold, the rain-soaked grass has turned green. The daffodils appeared (and were snowed upon); the tulips are just now blooming. The squirrels are active again, and chickadees, goldfinches and sundry sparrows are visiting our feeders. Our God assures us that the seasons will follow each other as long as the earth endures, that is, until Christ returns and this old earth will be radically transformed into our new earth home.  

Every spring, even in non-springtimes like now, when I choose the hymns we sing each week at our church (where I’m the music director), I include a few that praise God as Creator and thank him for creation’s beauties. Perhaps the best-known among the handful of such hymns is “For the Beauty of the Earth” (text by Folliott Pierpoint, 1835-1917). Its refrain says: Christ, our Lord, to you we raise/ This our sacrifice of praise. It is sung in response to each of the five stanzas which call attention to specific creational gifts: the beauty of the earth and skies; the “wonder of each hour” of day and night; hills, vales, trees, flowers, sun, moon, stars; the joy of hearing and sight; and finally, the joy of human love of family and friends.

He has done marvelous things
There are numerous Psalms that delight in the creation and God as Creator but, perhaps oddly, few such hymns. “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” a 19th century English/Anglican classic by Cecil Alexander, is even more detailed than Pierpoint’s hymn. It acknowledges many “creatures great and small” as wonderful works of God. Again, the refrain summarizes the each stanza:  All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. 

Some hymns have specific stanzas that focus on God’s works of creation. One that is well-known is “Earth and All Stars” (20th century text by Herbert Brokering). Using the phrase from Psalms 96 and 98 which exhorts us to “sing to the Lord a new song,” the hymn begins, Earth and all stars! Loud rushing planets! Sing to the Lord a new song! The second verse urges, Hail, wind, and rain! Loud blowing snowstorm! Sing to the Lord a new song! Flowers and trees! Loud rustling dry leaves! Sing to the Lord a new song! And here too, the refrain following each stanza summarizes, but it also becomes very personal for each singer: He has done marvelous things. I too will praise him with a new song!

There’s a 21st century hymn that’s a fine example of this genre. But it is unique in approach and in the comprehensiveness of its biblical message. That is made obvious by the subject headings for this hymn at hymnary.org: “Covenant/Salvation History; Creation/Earth Day/Environment; Sunday/Sabbath.” Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a Presbyterian pastor as well as hymn-poet, wrote “Creator God, You Made the Earth” in 2007. It can be sung to any appropriate tune with an 8.7.8.7 meter (each number equals syllables per line). One might say its content looks more at the forest than the trees. And not only is it biblically sound, it’s exceptionally liturgically useful because of its breadth. I recommend trying it with a tune you like. I suspect it will become a favourite.

Creator God, you made the earth,
A gift beyond comparing!
You called it good, you gave it worth,
You placed it in our caring.
You gave your gift of Sabbath rest,
Your pattern for creation.
You give us times to heal, to bless,
To join in celebration.
You give us Christ, who reconciled
The things of earth and heaven.
In him, you call each one your child!
What wondrous love you’ve given!
Because we’ve turned away from you,
This world still needs your healing.
Creation longs to be made new
Through Christ, your love revealing.
God, by your Spirit, may we be
Communities of caring,
That as we’re healed, your world may see
The hope that we are sharing.  

Author

  • Marian Van Til is a former CC editor who lived in Canada from 1975-2000. She now freelances for journals and writes books. Marian is also a classical musician and the music director at a Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ed Cassidy, live in Youngstown, NY.

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