“Listen to me you coastlands.” – Isaiah 41:1
I have been thinking about spending the spring working through some of the nature texts in the Bible for a sermon series. When I started my search I realized that very few were NOT about nature, which presented me immediately with a problem. Psalms about the forest or the land or the wilderness abound. Jesus calms storms, walks on water, finds a coin in a fish, sees a fig tree withered, turns water into wine. There are absurdly large catches of fish. I could go on. So, probably, could you.
I think my sermon series is a bust. How do you separate what is about nature and what is about non-nature or the human? And is even the non-human about nature? Or the non-human a kind of conceited farce about ourselves? After all, we are mostly water and rather depend on air.
The text for today is God speaking to nature. “Listen up you coastlands. . . .” Strange that God would command nature to listen to God. I mean isn’t nature naturally attuned to the divine? Hmmmm. Maybe not. Maybe nature is more like us than we think, maybe it too needs reminders of who it is and why it is and what it is.
What I want to do is to stop our use of nature as a thing. I want us to treat nature with respect. I also want it to treat us with respect. Hmmmm, again. Maybe we have to treat each other with respect? The longer we preach, the more reason we have to come up with good ideas for sermon series. Maybe the coastlands will have a suggestion?
O God, when we try our best to listen with the coastlands, grant us wise, exegetical ears. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Prayers for People Who Say They Can’t Pray.