Pixabay, marijana1

As Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday his disciples began to praise God, and ‘some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”’    Luke 19:39-40

I have often wondered what to make of these verses. We are so used to the idea that worship is a rational, verbal activity, primarily engaged in by humans we can disconnect from their full meaning. If pressed we may acknowledge that ‘every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea’, in other words the whole of the animal kingdom can be engaged in an act of worship as described in the book of Revelation. But what of rocks? Is this real worship or is it just imagery, or hyperbole to make a point?

The underlying question is whether or not the inanimate creation can engage in the worship of its Creator. We are familiar with the idea that creation speaks to us as rational beings of the creator. We see the beauty in a sunset or the grandeur of a mountain range and it inspires in us a sense of wonder and worship. But does creation itself also speak directly to its Creator? What of the idea that the inanimate creation worships too? The idea is supported by verses in the Psalms where we read of the whole of creation praising God –

The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge”. No speech, no words and yet they are heard to the end of the world. (Ps 19), and

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar and all that fills it; let the field exult and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy“ (Ps 96).

Indeed in Psalm 148 the whole cosmos praises God – ”Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the heavens!

So how does this work? If I am a rock or a tree do I worship God my creator simply by being, or is there something more? Maybe as the Earth rumbles and erupts, as the waves crash and as storms create thunder claps and cause trees to sway in the wind, this is their expression of worship to their maker. After all they are the product of God’s creative activity just as we are. Maybe they have stories to tell. Most of my professional life in geochemistry I have been coaxing rocks to give up their story and tell of how they came into being. Maybe there is also a non-verbal story of worship.

All this makes me ponder our relationship with the natural world, or creation, as we should call it as Christians. We are used to expressing our concern for the environment, but as Christians do we know why? Are there uniquely Christian reasons for caring for the environment? I would suggest that there are, and in part it must hinge on the extent to which we as created beings are partners with the whole created order. And whilst we recognise that the created world speaks to us of God’s character and majesty, can we go one step further and see creation itself joining us in praise and worship of the Creator?