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06

Aug 2020

This Is My Father’s World

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19:1

This Sunday, we will be introducing a new hymn to our gathering, This Is My Father’s World, by Maltbie Babcock. Born in Syracuse, New York, in 1858, Maltbie would go on to become the kind of college student that would make even a valedictorian jealous. To make matters worse, he was also kind, an expert swimmer, captain of the baseball team, and student orchestra leader. After graduating from Syracuse University, he attended Auburn Theological Seminary, and eventually became the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lockport, New York. In between his daily pastoral duties, Babcock itched to get out of the church office and explore the outdoors surrounding it. His favorite place to walk was a large hill two miles away that overlooked Lake Ontario. Grabbing his coat and running out the door, Babcock would tell his secretary, “I’m going to see my Father’s world.”

Sadly, Maltbie Babcock died at age 42 from a bacteria he contracted on a ship en route to Palestine. Following his death, his wife compiled his writings into a book called Thoughts for Everyday Living, published in 1901. Fourteen years later, in 1915, the tune for this poem-turned-hymn was arranged from an old English melody by one of Babcock’s close friends, accomplished musician F.L. Sheppard. This Is My Father’s World reminds us not only of the beauty of creation, but of the way it tethers us to the more enduring beauty of the gospel, and to the goodness of our Father. Here are the lyrics we will be singing:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and ’round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world: O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done.
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied, when earth and heaven be one.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!

This hymn is an invitation to us to listen. It’s hard to really listen these days. We are inundated with more and more distractions. Our brains are literally changing because of the technology around us, but Maltbie makes a statement of faith when he says that God speaks to us everywhere. That means that we have to listen. It is the same statement that the Psalmist makes at the top of Psalm 24: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof…” Everything. Everywhere. But it continues by naming our responsibility – to prepare our hearts and our hands to receive God! To worship God. We have a responsibility to listen to the beauty of God’s creation. So go outside more! It’s one of the ways we understand who God is. But our entrance into nature cannot simply be yet another obligation. This hymn is also an invitation to us to delight in the things of God. To refocus and reorient our hearts and minds onto the glorious Grace of God in Christ. A focused simplicity.

But this hymn isn’t all marshmallows and unicorns. Yes, nature can be a place of serenity and peace and hope; but nature is also a place of suffering, and death, and disease, providing us a sometimes much needed dose of reality. There is death and suffering in the world. It is not always fair, or right, or safe, or just. But we are reminded that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” God is over all and above all. So this hymn invites us to trust. To trust in the power of God. God’s Word teaches us trust. God’s creation teaches us trust. Trust in the wisdom of our Creator Father. Trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Trust Jesus when he says:

Matthew 6:25–26
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This world is a dark place characterized by greed, superficiality, oppression, and violence. Yet, it still belongs to God. It’s still His world and it’s not beyond redemption. Despite racism, sex trafficking, mutant viruses, hurricanes, terrorist bombings, genocide, famine, and war, He is the ruler yet. The problem of pain is not a riddle to be solved, or an equation to be balanced. Christ Himself promised trouble and affliction for those who sojourn on the path leading to His cross. But by that same cross, Christ has overcome the world. And as long as I continue to travel this earth as a pilgrim, I must always remember that “This Is My Father’s World.”

You can listen to This is My Father’s World by watching the video below, and you can purchase and download the full song by clicking here.

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