Earth and all stars

“O sing to the Lord a new song; for he has done marvelous things.”

Every time I hear the opening lines of Psalm 98, I always think of the hymn “Earth and All Stars”–and, invariably, every time I mention that hymn, someone curbsides me and asks, “Isn’t that the hymn with the line about the loud, boiling test tubes?”

It is indeed.

Actually, there’s a dozen loud things in there–loud rushing planets, loud pounding hammers, loud humming cellos, and a loud shouting army, just to name a few–and two counter-intuitive “louds” in the last verse, “loud sounding wisdom,” and “loud praying members.” The inclusion of those reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with a hearty “Thanks be to God,” at the end of a service, nor is it inappropriate that some of my best moments of gaining wisdom arrived within the framework of a heated discussion.

The lyrics to “Earth and all stars” were the brainchild of Herbert Brokering, a Lutheran minister who died in 2009. He wrote them for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 1964. The music was composed by David N. Johnson, of St. Olaf’s music faculty. When Brokering was asked about his inspiration for the song, he replied, “I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which emerge in the life of community. So there are the references to building, nature, learning, family, war, festivity. Seasons, emotions, death and resurrection, bread, wine, water, wind, sun, spirit. . . have made great impressions on my imagination.”

Our Psalm today is a reminder that joyful noise is just as important as being still and knowing God–it’s more about finding the balance of the two than it is choosing one over the other. In fact, it’s probably sinful to keep some of deafening awesome-ness of God quiet and to ourselves.

If you could write more verses to “Earth and all stars,” what are the loud entities in your life that you would share, that sing a song of praise and make a joyful noise to the Lord?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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