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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Folliott Sanford Pierpont’s “For the Beauty of the Earth”
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Clearly the hymn writer is struck by awe and wonder. The beauty of the earth and the miracle of each tree and flower, of the sun, moon, and stars have struck the poet with awe. As we sing with him, we too are struck by the sublimity of it all.

Awe and wonder—these are emotions that some historians of religion name as ultimately religious, because they seem to accompany every sublime encounter with the holy. They seem to overcome us when we experience an object or an event that lies beyond our full understanding.

You would think that such encounters would leave us speechless, that struck by awe we would have nothing left to say. But that is not how we were made. If we are at all like this hymnist and the psalmists of our Bible, we feel compelled, with our very next breath, to sing songs of grateful praise.

In the singing tradition of the church, awe and wonder are always followed by gratitude and praise. This is what we are taught; this is how we are conditioned. Like any good conditioning can do, this coupling of awe with gratitude can help us to get through hard times, even dark times. It is in those dark times, when we find it especially hard to feel grateful, that we most need to pray that God strike us with awe and fill us with wonder.

Lord, strike me with awe and fill me with wonder. When I am too much occupied with the mundane, amaze me, for I want to live with gratitude in my heart and praise of you on my lips. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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