“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created.” — Psalm 148:1-4
The book of Psalms culminates with five Psalms of praise. In the middle of this outpouring of praise is Psalm 148 pointing to how all creation: the heavens, angelic beings, the heavenly hosts, the seas, the mountains, the hills and forests, birds, animals and all the peoples of the earth are beckoned to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.” (v. 13)
How can this be? How can every dimension of creation stir gratitude and thanksgiving for the glory of God’s being and His heart of love expressed through the goodness and beauty of all that He has created?
Last year Greg Elmer led a group of us in Baltimore on a journey of contemplating the beauty of God’s creation beginning with an exploration of the solar system that left us in awe. Greg then helped us turn our attention to the wonder and complexity of the human brain. Greg is a neuroscientist who spends his days paying close attention to the workings of the underlying mechanisms of our brains and what can hinder mental well-being. He helped us see how our brains are perfectly designed to recognize and appreciate beauty whether it be in the heavens, in the world around us, or in our very design as people. He introduced us to Thomas Dubay’s The Evidential Power of Beauty, an amazing reflection on the convergence of science and theology in the recognition of beauty. Dubay helps us see that reality is inherently beautiful and as we pay attention to it we are led into a sense of wonder and praise. That sounds like the Psalmists outpouring in Psalm 148. I felt personally as if my soul would burst in awe as I marveled at mysteries beyond my capacity to comprehend.
As if that wasn’t enough, we were then released to spend the afternoon reflecting on God’s creative beauty expressed in the woods around us. We feasted on His glory and love expressed in His creative design of trees, rocks, soil, streams, and birds. Dubay points to the healing power of beauty and its ability to stir us to love one another and prepare us for the symphony to come that Paul tells us all creation is longing for when God restores us and all creation to His perfect design. Psalm 23:2 speaks to how the Good Shepherd restores our souls as we rest in His green pastures and walk alongside His quiet waters. I felt restored! I came away with a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift of my life and the great joy that awaits me in His glorious presence.
I’m thrilled that Greg has agreed to lead us again this year on a journey of contemplating God’s glory expressed in His spoken Word and the canvas of His creation. He will lead us in Baltimore on April 26th and then again at Corhaven July 20. May we all continue to make space to “search for God . . . and find Him-though indeed He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27-28). As C.S. Lewis expressed in Letter to Malcolm “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”