“When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.” Psalm 104 v. 30
This morning was one of the gorgeous October days when the air is crisp and good, and the sky is bright. The kids are on holiday from school this week, and today was a day for outside. We convinced the Spouse to stay away from the office for the morning (one of the joys of student life is the freedom to set your own schedule). The kids dug out sweaters, mittens and bike helmets, and off we went. Our goal was a wander in the cemetery at a nearby church. A short trip there through the park behind the university, then down the sidewalk and into the cemetery. The trees there are old, the stones are older, and some are ruined. The leaves are changing colour, filtering the sunshine, and it was a good place to be this morning.
The cemetery has graves dating back to the 16th century. Some are huge and ostentatious, others are just simple stones marked only with initials. Some are unreadable, worn by the weather and some are memorable like that of Allan Ramsay – “in this cemetery was interred the mortal part of an immortal poet.” I liked that one. On the older stones, there are skulls and crossbones aplenty, much to Blue’s delight, pirate hunter that he is. I tried to explain to him that they are not vicious, that they were there to remind us that all bodies are made of bones and will end up only as skeletons. That we need to take care of the loving part of us that is going to last. I’m not sure that what I said made sense to him. He was busy being a bundle of energy, pushing his bike along as fast as fast can be, seeing if he could keep up with his sister. Far more arrh, me hearties and not so much safe in the arms of Jesus.
Maybe focussing on personal mortality is a hard thing to do when you’re little. Maybe it’s hard anyway. Mortality has often been a focus as we try to talk about faith, but it can be a distracting path when you are seeking the Living God.
This week’s lectionary Psalm offers a balance perhaps. It is a vibrant song of creation, of God’s wonderful and varied works. It’s a song of praise recognising the enormous act of love that is and was and will be creation, the on-going emergence of newness. It’s earthy spirituality – the goodness of the earth is the goodness of God. The whole Psalm is written to the divine “you” but it serves as a profound reminder to the reader, and probably to the writer, too.
“How varied, O Lord, are your works! In wisdom you have made them all – the earth full of your creatures… They all look to you for their food in due time. You give it to them and they gather it up; you open your hand , they are filled with good things.” v 24-28
And then, in verse 29, the poet remembers humanity’s brief span – “when you hide your face they vanish, you take away their breath, they expire and return to dust.” But in the very next line, we read of creation again: “when you send forth your spirit, they are created and the face of the earth is renewed.” Cycles will continue. Life will continue on.
And the Psalmist piles up the evidence – look, God did this! Look, God does that! Look! Behold! I think I need that reminder. Like I needed the walk in the cemetery this morning. Look! Seasons turn and change, and that is good. Look, God is faithful! Trees and children grow. Look! Communities of faith continue. They have shared praise and stories for generations and still they are gathered together weekly to praise and prayer. And still the light comes gently down and the trees’ leaves are vibrant in October. Look and see.
“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to God while I live. May my song give him pleasure, as the Lord gives me delight.” Psalm 104: 33-32