Today’s psalm, the final one in our series, speaks about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It comes, of course, from that time in the history of Israel when the people who had once been taken into captivity in Babylonia have now returned to the holy city and along with those who had been left behind to till the soil and tend the land, have now set about the task of restoration.
Scholars generally agree this psalm was meant to inspire a group of people from disparate backgrounds all trying to work together to rebuild what they had lost and presumably facing some challenges along the way.
Now we are not yet at the moment where we as individuals or as a society or global village have started the work of rebuilding our lives and our world post-Covid-19 but many, if not most of us are beginning to consider what our lives and our world might look like on the other side.
This week, one of my friends posted on FaceBook her revised bucket list for post-Covid-19. In the past her list included world travel. It now focusses on tending relationships she realizes she had taken for granted. She plans to stay closer to home from now on. This week I listened to commentary about the decline in street level traffic in the downtown core and how that is affecting coffee shops and other retail businesses. People who once lived and worked downtown are snapping up housing in the suburbs. That got me wondering what services the church might provide to those people who are no longer leaving our community five days a week or who are moving into it. Urban planners and others will be wondering the same thing. In the church we are also wondering what the impact of everyone worshipping in their pyjamas and at their leisure is going to have on us when we are able to resume in person gatherings. What will worshipping life look like? And how will our growing awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, indigenous rights and environmental degradation inform the way we chose to rebuild the world around us post-Covid-19.
It’s a lot to take in and it’s a lot to imagine and we may wonder just how we are going to pick up the pieces of our lives and of our society and put them back together in a way that makes the best sense going forward. For some of us the wounds of the breaking this year has brought us are still too fresh to even contemplate moving too far forward.
But if there’s is one thing we do know, it’s that we and our world will move forward. We will not return to the way things have always been. We will not rebuild our world exactly as it was before because we and our world have been forever changed by what we are going through. Both the exciting and the scary thing about that is we are going to have to find new ways to live and learn new ways of being in the world we are rebuilding, a world we can perceive but not yet fully imagine.
And that is where today’s psalm comes in because the people the psalmist is addressing and perhaps the psalmist themself are also trying to live in new ways in a new world. And the psalmist is clear, that at the heart of all that recreation, it is the work of God to rebuild and renew us. It takes Divine wisdom, inspired wisdom to bring forth, to create and re-create our world. The good news, the psalmist assures us, is that God’s wisdom is without limit.
It’s not surprising to me that the psalmist turns to nature for inspiration when looking for evidence of God’s regenerative activity in the world. So often, the natural world reflects God’s gracious provision and the psalmist speaks to that: God provides rain for the earth, grass for the mountains, herbs for the service of people (in other words medicine.) God gives food to the cattle and to the young ravens when they cry. God knows the number of the stars and calls each one by name.
When I first read those words earlier this week I found myself thinking about the evolutionary impulse of the universe. The psalmist composing these words well over 2000 years ago wouldn’t have known anything about that impulse from a scientific perspective. We didn’t even have the image of our world that we have been gathering around every week in this series until 75 years ago when the first photos of earth were taken from space. Even then we only had a partial image and in black and white. But we have this image, in colour and so much more now.
And one thing we have learned over the centuries since the psalmist first looked up at the stars and was filled with reverence and awe for the mystery and magnitude of creation and the Creator, is that the universe leans towards life. Which is why the corona virus is mutating, because it wants to live, but so do we. And so it’s good for us to remember that the same unlimited wisdom inherent in the natural world is inherent in each and every one of us. It is the very Spirit that has been breathed into us at our birth. It’s the very essence that has brought forth the creation of a vaccine to counteract the growth of the virus, so that we might continue to flourish and live.
One of my favourite illustrations of the power inherent within us, to adapt, rebuild and recreate comes from cosmologist Brian Swimme. He talks about that moment in our evolutionary history about 400 million years ago when insects grew wings. Brian Swimme imagines that with these new wings the first flying insects would have been bumping into everything and anything because they had never flown before. They were still learning. I imagine there were lots of design flaws in those early insect prototypes but just look at what those flying insects can do today and how vitally important they are to the flourishing of our planet.
We too have been adapting, rebuilding, recreating and relearning this past year and we are going to need to keep trusting in God’s limitless wisdom to help us to keep doing all of that as we transition out of our pandemic. We are still in a foreign land and yet in so many ways we are not because we have always been evolving and in the limitless wisdom of our creator, we have always found ways to adapt, to grow and rebuild.
A few weeks ago a 13 year old girl from Mission was assaulted on the grounds of her school simply because she identifies as transgender. No one stepped in to help her but the assault was videotaped. When the video was shared on social media, the public responded. A week later a rally was organized to support the girl and her family. Hundreds of cars decked out in rainbow coloured balloons and flags gathered at the Mission Raceway honking their horns and organizing themselves for a drive by parade. There was even a plane that flew by with a message of support. “No child deserves to be treated that way” said one attendee “hopefully we are going to create a chain reaction that’s going to change the world!” For so many reasons, that evolutionary moment in which a trans identified child in a rural community received an outpouring of public support would have been unimaginable when I was 13 and in highschool but there is no limit to God’s wisdom. The universe leans towards life. And so, we change, we grow, we evolve, we build and rebuild.
One of the most beautiful lines in today’s psalms says God does not thrill to the strength of the horse or revel in the fleetness of humans. God delights in us when we revere God’s creation and place our hopes in divine wisdom and divine love, love that has created us and is holding our lives.