God is the supreme artist whose handiwork surrounds us. Yet few people ever look for his signature in the corner of his paintings because he signs his authorship in tiny script. His name doesn’t even appear in the credits of that epic movie of his, the book of Esther!
In Freda North’s novel ‘Polly’, a teacher of English on an exchange year in Vermont, describes the mid-October colours of autumn in a letter to her fiancé back in London like this:
‘My class are composing odes to the fall so I thought I’d do the same but in a letter form to you. I’ve told the seniors to forget Keats [‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and] to praise nature in whatever terms they choose. As you know, I don’t believe in God, but I have to credit and thank some thing; whoever, whatever. As the fall has taken hold, it is as if some divine, huge power is laying their hand over the land in a slow, magical sweeping. Initially, just the fingertips of some leaves on a few of the trees were touched with crimson. Within a week, every tree had the flourish of copper or brass amongst the remaining green – as if a whole branchful had been given a celestial handshake. Now the maples are cloaked in incredible swathes of colours from the brightest yellow to the deepest maroon; so vivid and bright that I don’t know whether to weep or wear sunglasses. No mists, no mellow fruitfulness; instead an amazing clarity, crystal-clean light and a clear breeze. This land is rich indeed, for the leaves are made of gold, of rubies, of garnets.’
She concludes: ‘God, I wish you were here…’ With an exclamation mark that would be an appropriate prayer for an agnostic’s longing for the Creator to make himself real to her. But, in fact, she wrote ‘God’ as a mild oath, for she went on to wish her man could be there to share it with her. Believers can invoke our Creator and one another in praise of his handiwork both in nature and in his new creation. And unlike Polly we can use positive verbs: ‘My God, you are here enjoying your handiwork with us.’
After all, in the sacred songbook of Israel the psalmists extol YHWH as Creator and Sustainer of the world, and especially of God’s own country – not as ‘a land full of cow pats, high pollen count and bee stings!’ but ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’.
‘From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, … wine to gladden the heart of man, … and bread to strengthen man’s heart.’
‘ O Lord, how manifold [many and varied] are your works! In wisdom have you made then all; the earth is full of your creatures.’
‘Here is the sea, … and Leviathan [whales? dolphins?], which you formed to play with.’ (Psalm 104:13-15, 24, 26 margin)