Sunday November 7, 2021 The Twelve Days of COPmas: Day 7 – The gift of biodiversity
Psalm 104:10-18; 24-30*
God makes springs pour down the valleys. Streams that flow from every hill Quench the thirst of all his creatures, and wild donkeys drink their fill. Birds sing sweetly in the branches, nesting by the riverside. From above, the earth is watered, by God’s bounty satisfied.
He makes grass grow for the cattle, plants for man to cultivate— Bringing from the earth its produce, food for all mankind to eat: Wine that to man’s constitution joy and gladness will impart, Oil that makes the face resplendent, bread that fortifies the heart.
Blessed with water are the forests— trees which to the LORD belong, Mighty cedars that he planted on the heights of Lebanon. Birds reside among the cedars; storks upon the pine trees nest. Wild goats live among high mountains; conies in the crags find rest.
LORD, how many are your wonders! Wisely you have made them all. Earth is full of all your creatures, living things, both great and small. And the sea, so vast and spacious, brings forth life abundantly. There leviathan is playing; to and fro the ships go by.
All your creatures look towards you for their food to be supplied. What you give to them they gather, with your goodness satisfied. When you hide your face, they’re troubled; lifeless, they return to earth. When new life comes from your Spirit, to earth’s face you give rebirth.
*This metrical version of Psalm 104 is from ‘Sing Psalms’ (2003), published by the Free Church of Scotland. It can be sung to the hymn tune Hyfrydol (I will sing the wondrous story), which can be heard here.
The diversity of life is staggering at 8.7 million species. Psalm 104 enjoys how they have not just spilled out of God’s mind randomly but fit the Earth in the interdependence called ecology. And how humanity is part of this beautiful system. The oxygen you are breathing comes to you from plants as microscopic as algae and as big as trees. Biodiversity is magnificent, intriguing and essential to fighting climate change. We are sustained by it, we belong to it, but it is not ours. Nor have we borrowed it from future generations. It belongs to God.
My gift to the Earth, beloved by all who love its Creator, would be forests full of calling birds. Huge forests, each different and varied within. “By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches… in them the birds build their nests…” (verses 12 and 17). We need to increase forests (not just stop reducing them), and my gift would go a little way towards replacing what has been destroyed. The carbon captured would build wild beauty and reduce global warming.When I was born there was about twice as much visible wildlife than now. My gift to the Earth of forests would be a gift to Jesus and to all creatures. It’s a would-be act of worship in the form of practical, down-to-earth basic ecology. It would also help humanity to relate to other, non-human, beings; a well-established introduction to relating to God. But maybe it should be the gift of clean oceans instead? Or wild rivers. Or vast wetlands. Anything to counter the short-sighted plundering lunacy. “Oh Lord, how diverse are your works! In wisdom you made them all.” (verse 24)
O Lord my God, you are very great. How biodiverse are your works! Earth’s creatures reflect your wild wisdom and untamed character. Stir us to respect you and your whole creation. Heal the soul-sickness in which we destroy the web of life. Raise us from the grave of indifference to act together. Amen.
The Reverend Chris Bailie is Minister of Cannington and Westfield URC and Green Apostle for South Western Synod