Psalm 65: Lavish God

Sunday morning we celebrated worship together out at the DeVries’ barn at Wabooson Lodge. What a glorious day; what an amazing way to lift praise to our Creator!

The text for Sunday was Psalm 65, a psalm of praise that Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann calls a Psalm of “Reorientation,” written by the Hebrew poets and song-writers to remind the Jews of the providence and sovereignty of God after something devastating had happened.

We find ourselves in need of “Reorientation” too after reading the daily newspaper or listening to an update on the radio or television. Racial tensions, gender issues, political hot-topics like immigration and scandal. . . all of it can make our heads and hearts spin and our future look bleak. What if we re-oriented ourselves?

The words of Psalm 65 remind us that God is lavish:

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,

O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;

you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves,

the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it,

you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;

you provide the people with grain,

for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,

settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,

and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;

your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,

the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,

the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy.
(Psalm 65:9-13, NRSV)

James and I just returned from a two week vacation. On our way to visit family, we visited Craters of the Moon National Park, and the last few days were spent at the beautifulYellowstone National Park. Both parks were immaculately maintained and held vast evidence of God’s amazing handiwork and providence. Though the Psalmist imagined something like a puppeteer-God micro-managing every aspect of Creation, the parks we visited reminded me that God is the Ultimate Landscaper and Designer! God set things into motion and created ecosystems that regenerate and grow, even after a massive lava flow or other volcanic activity.

The truth of this is held in the evidence of the beautiful forest regrowth seen across Yellowstone. In 1988, the towering old-growth Lodge Pole Pine forests at Yellowstone were wiped out in a devastating forest fire. At the time, the public was in an outrage, the locals and park-lovers were heart-broken at the “ashes of greatness” as I heard in an educational film at the park.

Also at the time, though, the National Park Service was trying to console the public, reminding them that forest fire is a naturally-occurring phenomena, required at times to revitalize a forest. Though it sounds counter intuitive, forest fire can destroy the sick, old, and disease-ridden trees in a forest and leave behind the opportunity for new life. The Lodgepole Pine is an excellent example of this. The reproduction is pretty complex:
Like all conifers, lodgepole pines have both male and female cones. The male cones produce huge quantities of yellow pollen in June and July. This yellow pollen is often seen in pools of rainwater around the park or at the edges of lakes and ponds.
The lodgepole’s female cone takes two years to mature. In the first summer, the cones look like tiny, ruby-red miniature cones out near the end of the branches. The next year, after fertilization, the cone starts rapidly growing and soon becomes a conspicuous green. The female cones either open at maturity releasing the seeds, or remain closed—a condition called serotiny—until subjected to high heat such as a forest fire. These cones remain closed and hanging on the tree for years until the right conditions allow them to open. Within a short period of time after the tree flashes into flame, the cones open up and release seeds over the blackened area, effectively dispersing seeds after forest fires. Trees without serotinous cones (like Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and Douglas-fir) must rely on wind, animals, or other agents to carry seeds into recently burned areas. (citation here)

Did you read that? The serotinous cones can only release their seeds after the intense heat of a forest fire. And as nature has it, these seeds grow best in slightly acidic soil (the kind that’s left behind after a fire, by the way)!

Another interesting thing is that these serotinous cones can remain perfectly preserved on the forest floor for up to 20 years. The seeds inside are viable, and when the fire sweeps through, a cone that dropped years ago can even release new life.

So even though a forest fire looks to be utterly devastating, it is actually providing a way for new life.

Perhaps this time in our nation is a chance for rebirth. I think it is time for some of the “old growth” (like gender bias, racism, and fear of people who are “different” than we are, government corruption, hate-mongering, and fighting between churches/differing theologies) to burn down and leave room for some new and healthy ideas and leaders.

Perhaps the turmoil and struggle we are seeing and feeling is an opportunity for some of us to begin to release seeds of hope in this parched and devastated time.

May you see your opportunities to release seeds of hope and light, and may we together begin to grow a new, healthy, and hopeful forest!

In Christ’s Love,

Rev. Paula

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