"Make a joyful noise, all the earth!" from Psalm 100
Did the Psalmist know what he was asking? "Make a joyful noise, all the earth?" Couldn't he predict the cacophony of chirps, trills, grunts, howls, growls, and meows, barks, peeps, caws, and crows that would come from such a request?
Probably. That's why he called not for a well-crafted cantata, but a joyful noise, sung by creation's chaotic choir where all God's critters got a place.
A little girl whose story UCC Pastor Kenneth Bailey told recently in The Christian Century shared the psalmist's wisdom. In Bailey's first pastoral Christmas pageant - complete with grey-costumed donkeys and brown cows - one five-year-old showed up in a white-feathered swan outfit. The young minister tried to talk her into a more biblically-correct costume: "I explained that there were no swans at Jesus' cradle." The little girl "furrowed her brows and looked me directly in the eye (and said) 'Don't you think swans love Jesus, too?'"
The swan was in, Bailey affirms.
Both the little girl and the ancient psalmist knew that praising God is not a solo performance, limited to a particular species. Nor is the proclamation that all creation shares in God's praise some feel-good sentiment, reserved for psalms and children's pageants. It's a radical statement that puts us humans in our proper place in creation and affirms our responsibility to care for that creation. If all the earth is called to sing God's praise, what right do we humans have to silence earth's other voices, be it through the extinction of species or the destruction of their habitats?
Swans love Jesus, too. So do salamanders, sea horses, and spotted owls. What part of "all the earth" don't we get?
Thank you, Lord, for all creation that sings your praise. Help us to find our right place in the choir. Amen.
"Swans Love Jesus, Too"