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Psalm 104:24-35

May 15, 2016

Creature Feature

Well, its over for another year The Biggest Week in American Birding and it all takes
place right here in Northwest Ohio. People come from around the world with binoculars,
cameras and the desire to identify a species of bird that theyve never seen before.
On a good day I might be able to identify a robin, a seagull, or a cardinal. I saw a robin
singing in the tree in our front yard, a seagull dropping its payload over our car, and a cardinal
coming out of Immaculate Conception Church.
I know that this area is known for many varieties of warblers, but that got me to
wondering just how many different species of birds there are in the world. A 2014 article
estimated around 10,500 different species. Thats a lot of birds to identify.
But then I wondered about how many species of animals there were in the world. I
know that human beings homo sapiens is one. But how many more? Five years ago the
official number of named and cataloged species was 1.3 million, with approximately 15,000
species added every year. The lowest guesstimate for the total number of different animals is
3 million; the highest number is somewhere around 9-10 million. And were not even talking
about the microscopic critters inside our bodies there are over 10,000 different species of
The world is filled with such diversity and wonder, it is no surprise that people of faith
are led to worship God as the creator of it all. Psalm 104 is a beautiful poem about creation,
filled with colorful language to describe Gods handiwork, speaking about how God stretches
out the heavens like a tent and makes the clouds into a chariot. As Walter Bruggemann notes
in his commentary on the psalms, faith does not lead the believer towards scientific
explanations about such things but to praise doxologies.
Psalm 104 celebrates the heavens, the seas, the mountains, and all of the animals,
trees and plants that cover the earth. There are nocturnal animals that come out at night when
we are asleep and then the daylight hours in which people go to work.
All creation looks to God for food and life and it is Gods creation itself that provides us
what we need in order to survive. This statement of faith is there to remind us that wherever
people go hungry, we should seek to cooperate with God to care for one another. How do we
work with God to provide for each other or get in the way of Gods desire to bless life?
By the end of this psalm, the writer is singing to the Lord of creation and praying that
their meditation might be pleasing to God. But then comes what sounds like a prayer for
destruction: Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless
the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD! Its the first Hallelujah in the Book of Psalms.
The Hebrew word that is translated sinners may also be translated sins, which
makes for a different prayer. Let sin be consumed from the earth. If sin is life apart from God,
why wouldnt we want to pray for a day in which all creation would worship the creator? Then
we would know that Gods Spirit was truly at work.
Today is the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. The risen Lord has instructed
his followers to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to appear. Jesus also promises that they
will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. His followers follow these instructions, even though they
have no idea what to expect.

This is truly a miracle, isnt it? I dont think that I would even go as far as Sandusky to
wait for something to happen unless I had better information. But they wait for Jesus in an
upper room during the festival of Pentecost in which Jews of different countries with different
languages gather for the celebration of God giving the Law to Moses as well as the first fruits
of the harvest.
And what diversity there is in Jerusalem! 5Now there were devout Jews from every
nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was
bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed
and astonished, they asked, Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that
we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents
of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt
and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
Cretans and Arabsin our own languages we hear them speaking about Gods deeds of
power. (Acts 2:5-11)
Peter get up to speak to everyone and its a good thing that they can understand him
and announces that this phenomenon of understanding one another is nothing less than the
power of God at work in their midst to bring unity out of diversity. He quotes the prophet Joel
who spoke of a time when the Spirit would be poured out and everyone who calls on the name
of the Lord will be saved. After this brief introduction, Peter tells them about Jesus and how his
resurrection from the dead brings hope and salvation to all people. People come forward to be
baptized and three thousand persons accept Christ into their life. The church is born. Happy
birthday, church!
I believe that this is scriptures way of reminding us that since Day One, the church is
meant to be filled with all kinds of folk, all sorts of these crazy creatures that we call human
beings. We will not look alike, we will speak with different languages, and we will come from
different communities and classes. Some will come from large cities, others from small
villages, some from wealth and others from poverty. But God is calling us all in.
Right now the United Methodist Church is meeting for their General Conference, that
every-four-year event in which our denomination sets the rules and makes decisions that we
will have to live with for the next four years. Then we do it again! The goal should be for all of
the people attending this conference to grow closer and stronger in Jesus, through the power
of the Holy Spirit. But the resolutions and the controversies that come to light every four years
are often the things that threaten to pull us apart, as people try to find ways to draw the lines
that would separate us from one another. I am confident that the church will do everything in its
power to keep the institution safe so not much will be changed.
But shouldnt the church be changing to that Pentecost vision in which the folks in
Jerusalem saw the world as God created it, filled with all kinds of people and all kinds of
creatures, every one breathed into life by a life-giving God. We have five youth being
confirmed today as members of this church and each one of them is different and unique.
Likewise, those adults coming into membership bring special gifts and graces with them.
We will likely continue to be a church in which we have more stuff in common with one
another than not. But what might happen if we could start imagining people with the kind of
diversity that is in the animal kingdom and see every person here as a new creation breathed
into existence by the same Lord? Jesus resurrection and the Holy Spirits power have broken
down those barriers.
And then we will see visions and dream dreams again. Today is the Day of Pentecost!
Come, all creatures, great and small! Everyone who calls on the name of Lord will be saved.