The Mountains Sing - Psalm 89 (Rev. Carmen Retzlaff)
Again and again in the Psalms, the earth sings praises to God. Not just the humans, but the whole creation. The Psalms are the prayer book of the Jewish people, and then of the Christians as well. And they are poems. And, so importantly, they are songs. There are directions to musicians within the ancient texts, and people have sung them for thousands of years.
The tunes to which they have been set are part of God’s great and varied creation themselves - the music of people from all over the planet, of cultures of all times and places. Many of the ancient tunes have been lost to us, and we wonder. The human tunes, that is.
The music with which the earth praises its creator is still audible to us, sometimes, if we listen and notice. In our place of worship, under big live oak trees, we often hear the birds join in, and their contribution to the music is unmistakable. We often stop and just listen to the sounds of nature around us. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that the song of the breeze is part of that music as well, and listen to its variations as well as feeling its breezes, gusts or gales. The sound of the rocks, the rabbits and deer, the trees and grasses are not easily audible to most of us. Is the sun’s warmth part of the song?
In Psalm 89, for example, the heavens join in the song, the Psalmist compares the power of God to that of the sea, and then, finally, the mountains lift their voices in praise.
Psalm 89: 5-12 (NRSV)
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
a God feared in the council of the holy ones,
great and awesome above all that are around him?
O Lord God of hosts,
who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it—you have founded them.
The north and the south—you created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
Tabor and Hermon - two of the great mountains of the Holy Land. Joyously praising the name of their creator - singing in harmony—or maybe in call and response?- from the North and the South of the land.
This part of the Psalm is not in our lectionary text (the regular cycle of readings, Lectionary 13, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - July 2 in 2017) - which includes parts before and after this. Many of the 150 Psalms feature the earth singing - the animals, the trees and fields, the sea an the mountains, the sun and stars. Often they are not the parts we read, or seem to notice. We focus on the humans singing. We overlook the fact that in the song of praise to the creator, we are just part of a tremendous chorus.
Some of the ancient bird songs are lost to us, too, like ancient human tunes, as some species are lost, mostly victims of human expansion. I wonder if we can still hear the song of the mountains? I wonder what their song of praise is like?
Psalms in which the earth, creatures and parts of creation speak to the Lord, tell of God’s works, or voice praise to their creator include: 19, 29, 65, 77, 89, 96, 97, 98, 145. There are many others that sing about the majesty and wonder of creation. This ancient collection of the songs and prayers of our people is filled with nature images!