One of my favorite ways to hear and tell the Creation story is through Godly Play. In the story, each day of creation is named as a gift given to the hearer long before they were born, and long before even their parents and their parents' parents were born. On the first day, we are given the gift of light, and it isn't just any light. It's not just light from a night-light, or a lamp, or even the sun, moon, and stars. It's the light from which all light comes. On the second day, we're given the gift of water, and it isn't just any water like the water from the sink, or a pond, or even rivers, oceans, or rain. The water of the second day is the source of all water, and it is a gift to all humanity. The story unfolds as days three through seven are told in similar fashion, each day acknowledged as the gift that it is.
Psalm 148 paints the same sort of picture as we read a call for the depths of creation, the source of all we know and see, to praise the Lord. The chapter mirrors the order of the first creation account in Genesis 1, and nothing is left out as the call for praise is issued. Not just the heavens, but the heights above and the waters above the skies are called to praise (v. 1). Not just angels, but all his heavenly hosts (v. 2). Not just the earth, but all that is on the earth and inside of it, all called to praise from their depths (vv. 7-10). The verses calling humanity to praise follow the same format: "Praise the Lord from the earth... Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together!" (vv. 11-12). There are no power distinctions or clues that would indicate rank or importance. Kings and children are called alongside one another, together with the fullness of all creation, to mutual praise of the God who has created them.
For God to be praised so fully by all that God has created suggests something about the character of God. God is worthy of our praise simply as Creator; and yet, God's creative work is an action out of God's great love for what has been and will be created. This all-encompassing love calls for nothing short of a response that matches the gift of all gifts, the love of all loves. Our praise for God is not just something that occurs from within us as humans, nor is it something that should be restricted to Sunday mornings, midweek Bible studies, or even our times of personal devotion. Our praise of God, like the gifts of creation, is a small picture of the praise from which all praise is derived, from the guttural depths of the earth. As part of God's creation, we are invited to participate in it. We are called to exclaim with our lives, "His name is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord" (vv. 13-14).
Furthermore, this passage demonstrates our participation as one of creation, not one over creation. We are not to take control or power over the rest of creation, but we do have a role within it. McCann writes, "If there is something unique about the human creature, it is the responsibility to respect and protect the integrity of the whole created order, so that it may be able to 'speak'" (McCann, 373). The power God assigns Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 1:26-31) is not a power by which they can control creation at their whim, but instead is a responsibility that calls them to mirror the blessing God had given humanity. Our rulership in creation is not one like the parent who controls their child simply for their own desires to be met; we are offered governance over creation as a means of mutual respect, love, and care. By upholding this role, we continue to rightly orient ourselves toward God and work towards more complete and holy, right relationship between ourselves and God and between ourselves and creation.
Psalm 148 is paired with the Gospel reading of John 13 this week, in which we are given the new command, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). As we move forward in this Easter season and reflect on God's divine love for us through the sacrifice of God's son, we also remember the power of God's love that raised Jesus from the dead. We are commanded to participate in this love and in praise with all of creation. It is not just the love of daily devotion or even communal praise. It is the love from which all love comes, and God's love for us requires nothing less. We are called to offer our whole and continual praise as his faithful servants, the people close to his heart.
McCann, J. Clinton, Jr. "Psalm 148." In Roger E. Van Harn and Brent A. Strawn, eds. Psalms for Preaching and Worship: a Lectionary Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.