Preparing for Worship – Jeff hampton.
In worship today we hear the familiar hymn, “This is my Father’s World.” It’s a reminder of the gift we have of this beautiful planet and, if we’ll let it, a call to stewardship.
The poem that became the hymn text was written by Maltbie Davenport Babcock, a Presbyterian minister in New York state, and published after his death in 1901. As the story is told, Babcock walked regularly along the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario, and as he went out he would tell his wife Katherine that he was “going out to see the Father’s world.” Fourteen years after Babcock’s death, his friend Franklin L. Sheppard set the poem to music. Based on a traditional English melody, the hymn tune is known as terra patris, which is Latin for “beautiful world.”
Curiously, at the same time Babcock was invoking God the “father,” as was the cultural norm in the late 19th century, the culture around him was not being kind to God’s creation. The so-called Second Industrial Revolution was polluting the air and water and scarring the land in the rush for raw materials to generate energy and mass produce new products. Thankfully, today we know we are charged to not just be enjoyers and takers but to be good stewards of this planet we call home.
But, in our zeal to protect Earth, we may neglect or run roughshod over our fellow inhabitants. We may forget that while we were created in God’s image and have accomplished great feats with the intellect and resources we have been given, we in fact are not gods ourselves. We are part of the hierarchy of nature that God created. We owe each other the same kindness, generosity and respect that we want to apply to fragile ecosystems and the creatures that populate them.
As we worship today, consider your place in this beautiful world that God created. And consider your role as a steward of this great gift, whether it’s caring for the land, plants and animals, or giving abundant grace to one another.