A Reflection on Psalm 104.26-36 by Canon Rob, 5th June: Pentecost
Many of the pictures I copy for these Reflections come from clip art, of which there seem to be a countless number. Sometimes there are surprises. So when I Googled “clip art Psalm 104” several pictures were of the Holy Spirit: confirmation, if any were needed, that the verses of the psalm set for today are very appropriate. At first sight, that is a surprise, because the psalm doesn’t speak much of the Spirit of God. However, verse 26 does refer to wisdom and that is a clue to one of the things we can understand about Pentecost. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, in the Old Testament, “divine wisdom is manifested in creation and in God’s guidance of nations and individuals.” We see this in the verses of our psalm, where all creatures are dependent upon God who has made them, something which our Queen clearly believes, and something reinforced if you read the entire psalm. We see a God who creates order out of chaos.
We read the psalms from a Christian perspective and that takes us further in our understanding of God. So John starts his Gospel thus: “In the beginning…” exactly as Genesis starts. But Genesis speaks of the creation whilst John writes about “the Word” who was with God at the beginning and who was God. By the time we get to John 1.18 we find that the author is speaking about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who makes God known to us. He is “the Word” or, in the original Greek, he is the “Logos”: the divine Wisdom. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church again says that in the New Testament, “Christ is portrayed as the teacher of wisdom and endowed with the Spirit.” Now we can read the verses of Psalm 104 with new understanding and appreciate why they are set for today.
Psalm 104 is sometimes called “A Hymn of Creation” and possibly written by the same author as Psalm 103 or even Psalm 148, the subject of our last Reflection. Whatever, it is a celebration of all that God has made, and all that God is. Today we sing hymns of praise and celebration too and one in our hymn book, [566 in “Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New”] expresses these well. It begins, “Praise, O Praise our God and King…” and refers to the sun, the silver moon, the rain, crops and harvest. It ends: “Glory to our bounteous King; glory let creation sing: glory to the Father, Son and blest Spirit, Three in One.” As we emerged from ‘lock-down,’ there was an increasing interest in the natural world around us and the number of nature programmes on television increased. At the same time we have become more aware of climate change and the damage we human beings cause to the planet, which has been created by God but which needs us to be careful stewards of it in partnership with God.
This is something those of us who are Christians will want to do as an expression of our faith and Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit is given to help us live out our faith and, even, be an example to those who do not share our concerns for the world around us. Thankfully there are many who do: people of faith or not. All of us can celebrate the wonder of creation and we often find that God is closer to us as we do so. As verse 35 of Psalm 104 puts it, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will make music to my God while I have my being.” What better way to celebrate Pentecost than to rejoice in all that God has made and to celebrate His Spirit who is given to help each of us follow in the way of our Lord, who is the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, and the one who makes God’s love and creativity known.
O Lord, how manifold are your works and the earth is full of your creatures
Send forth your Spirit again this day to renew the face of the earth,
that the whole creation may reflect the majesty of your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[Prayer at the end of Psalm 104 in Common Worship Daily Prayer]