This is my Father’s World . . .

This is my Father’s World . . . April 11, 2020

The urban garden at the College and School

The beauty of the moon last night reminded me of the goodness of the world.

When I walked over to the gardens, fields, and copse of trees behind the College and School, I saw beauty, design, and transcendence. I did not bring the glory to nature, God did and nature still reflects that glory well. We do not listen or we could hear the song of creation. When I walk to work (now sadly empty of folks), I can take joy in birdsong. The feral cat that dashes away when I open one of the doors to the garden is sleek, fast, and marvelous.

This is also the time of the pandemic, a runaway virus that is also part of the world. I was reminded of the brokenness of the cosmos.

Love made a cosmos full of wonders.

Romantic poets understood and expressed this truth. Wordsworth is one of the best, because while he could see the beauty, he was also not afraid to look at what hate had done. As he grew older, his romanticism was grounded in hard Christian truth. Wordsworth could write movingly, without too much schmaltz, about a daisy.

He also knew death. When, like any great romantic, he was surprised by great joy, then Wordsworth knew the pain of having lost the one person with whom he wished to share that joy. Wordsworth’s Christian faith allowed him to see his Father’s world and also how that world fell short of the glory of God. Wordsworth retained beauty and a reasonable view of reality, because of God. God stands behind His creation as a guarantee that all the suffering and sorrow will have a purpose.

Hate broke the cosmos causing imperfections. 

The Victorian secularist looked at nature and saw only hopelessness in deep time. In millions of years, nothing a person does counts for anything in the grand scheme of things. Ugliness and competition were basic to life:  Nature was red in fang and claw. The poetry was ground out of such men by a vision of matter in mindless motion.

Secular romantics avoided the hard edges of nature, the pandemics, the ugliness, for wombats and flowers. One could pretend, paint, play at something better. This helps for a time, but not when death comes to call. Death cannot be distracted by a joke, a quip, or a song.

A Christian sees the beauty that was, is, and is coming without denying the death. 

We must see nature as she is and as we have made her: beautiful, cooperative, cruel, seemingly without meaning. We can also see what should be, what will be, what is coming.

When I was a boy, a favorite hymn was This is my Father’s World. Few hymns get the sentiment right about nature, embracing the beauty and the brokenness. This hymn is not afraid of the battle: the wrong that would wreck the world, the just God who will right all wrongs. Heaven and earth are not yet one, but inevitably will be, because the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus makes this victory inevitable.

Read the words, especially the last verse, and rest in God:

  1. This is my Father’s world,
    And to my list’ning ears
    All nature sings, and round me rings
    The music of the spheres.
    This is my Father’s world:
    I rest me in the thought
    Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
    His hand the wonders wrought.
  2. This is my Father’s world:
    The birds their carols raise,
    The morning light, the lily white,
    Declare their Maker’s praise.
    This is my Father’s world:
    He shines in all that’s fair;
    In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
    He speaks to me everywhere.
  3. This is my Father’s world:
    Oh, let me ne’er forget
    That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
    God is the ruler yet.
    This is my Father’s world,
    The battle is not done:
    Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
    And earth and Heav’n be one.

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