“What a Wonderful World!”

A Reflection on Psalm 65 by Canon Rob,

20th February, 2nd Sunday before Lent.

Today, the 2nd Sunday before Lent, is also known as Sexagesima or the sixtieth day before Easter, a title which originated in the 6th Century. In the Eastern Church, the Sundays were named after the subjects of the reading from one of the Gospels and during the week following today, meat was not allowed to be eaten, perhaps because the Gospel was Jesus’ parable of the sower! (See Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 13, verses 1 – 9.) The Church is often accused of being old-fashioned and irrelevant. Being faithful to its origins and keeping up with the times is a difficult tightrope on which to walk but it is useful to remember how our worship has evolved over the years, especially since the long trial period began in the mid 1960’s leading to the Alternative Service Book of 1980 and Common Worship, since 2000, with which church goers are familiar today. The Eucharist, or Holy Communion Service, which we now use is very similar to that used by members of the other main denominations and other Anglican Churches throughout the world: an example of how we are all trying to come closer together which is Christ’s will for us.

The psalm set for today is 65 which is about God’s creation in the world. We no longer have themes in the readings. If we did it would be more appropriate to have kept the Gospel with Jesus telling the parable of the sower, referred to above. Having said that, we can still, and should, celebrate all that God has made, and is making, perhaps more than we do. Psalm 65 helps us to do so and it is sometimes referred to as a harvest hymn. The first verse can be read as a call to prayer: “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; to you that answer prayer shall vows be made.”

However, looking at the psalm as a whole, it is clearly not just suitable for harvest. Indeed, only the last five verses are specific to harvest. Verse 11, printed on the picture here, suggests that the year in which the psalm was written was a good year with abundant crops. People at the time believed that God was entirely responsible for the outcome at harvest. So in verse 8 we read, “You visit the earth and water it; you make it very plenteous.” Try reading the last six verses slowly, using your imagination to picture the author of the psalm who is sitting on a hill overlooking the fields. There is a river in the valley with beautifully clear water murmuring as it travels towards the sea, and the corn sways and rustles, touched by the warm, gentle breeze. No wonder the psalmist is full of joy! But it is a joy in all creation and not just harvest.

The middle verses, 4 – 7, show this joy in creation leading us into the remainder of the psalm. It is also down to God and his goodness. The great Creator God answers the prayers of his people by his work of creation which is awesome as shown in verse 4. Then verses 5 and 6 give us an idea of just how powerful God is. “In your strength you set fast the mountains….” and “You still the raging of the seas, the roaring of their waves….” The psalms were written to be the hymn book of the Jewish people, but the writer of Psalm 65 knows that the truth of its words goes way beyond God’s chosen as we see in verse 7: “Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels.” Is the author hoping, or even expecting, that those who live in the remotest parts of the world will come to believe in God because of what they see in the world around them? Whether or not that happened, today all of us are often rightly reminded of the need to care for this wonderful planet which is the home we all share.

May the richness of your creation, O God,
fill us with the joy which leads us to cherish all that you have made.