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.
— Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864

There are certain moments and persons in our lives that make a lasting impact. One of those for me was  Marilyn Killian, a musician of such excellence that she could do most anything and chose children’s music as area of emphasis and focus of passion. Not only did I get to sing in her city-wide children’s choir with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra for Mahler’s 8th and Britten’s War Requiem, I was fortunate enough to have her as my elementary school music teacher. Under her magnificent direction and inspiration, I learned the John Rutter arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth before I could even sing the old familiar tune DIX which is in most hymnals. It’s soaring melody and gracious modulations took Pierpoint’s text to new heights. Even to this day, I can remember singing under Mrs. Killian and how she opened my mind, heart, ears, eyes, and soul to the glory found within “this our hymn of grateful praise.”

For the Beauty of the Earth has inspired generations of Christians through its call to thanksgiving and its recalling of all those precious things that elicit our response of gratitude. It reminds us of the delights of nature in its abundant beauty and goodness, the presence of which speaks to the truth of a Creator that is generous and kind and loving toward all of Creation. 

Just as nature has its yearly seasons, the Church also has its seasons that help move us through the liturgical year, seasons that focus our attention on a particular aspect of our relationship with God. During the month of September, the Season of Creation takes its place alongside those of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and other such celebrations. “Creationtide” (as it is known) first came out of the Church in Australia back in 2000 and has grown to encompass celebrations all across the world and all across the spectrum of Christian traditions. The season invites us to look at the world shaped by God’s hand and discover something powerful and inspiring that helps our discipleship soar to new heights, following Christ’s work of announcing and ushering in God’s New Creation – that is, God renewing all things for life abundant, generous, and beautiful.

This September, we are going to celebrate the Season of Creation at Union Avenue. The tenor of our worship will note the challenge and reward in being good stewards of God’s Creation (Genesis 1:26-31) through our hymns and prayers and our celebration of the Gospel through song, scripture, and sacrament. From gaining a sense of God’s abundance to gaining an appreciation for our fellow humanity, from beholding the wonder of the divine revealed in nature to lamenting the ways we desecrate such splendor to the ways our covenant with Creation can be restored and renewed, the Season of Creation will help us explore the theological themes of ecological stewardship and our ethical responsibility to both Creator and to our fellow creations as part of our life of faith.

More than just a promise of a post-mortem heavenly hereafter, the Gospel invites us to share in the very renewal of all life here on earth through a love that sees all life as sacred. It declares that all persons and creatures, all flowers and rocks, the very lands and seas and skies themselves, have dignity and worth. It promises a New Creation rising up from the ashes of Eden, and we are called to be witnesses of such holy endeavors.

This September, may Union Avenue dive deeper into our heritage of faith and catch the vision God casts before us as we seek to bring life to this Future Great City and the whole Creation over.

For the joy of human love,
    brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
    for all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
    this our hymn of grateful praise.

— Rev. Michael Riggs

“This Our Garden Home”
September 9
“A Homecoming Like No Other”
(Genesis 2:4b-14)

September 16
“Peaceable Kin-dom”
(Genesis 2:15; Mark 10:41-45)

September 23
“Things that Join the Earth and Sky”
(Psalm 19; Jeremiah 4:23-28)

September 30
“Taking in the View”
(Isaiah 65:17-25)