There are some hymns that are so familiar, I almost forget that they exist.  This is one of those.  When I played through it this week, it was as though I had been transported to the Sunday School of my childhood.  The tune is a 17thcentury English melody but the words were written in 1848 by a woman named Cecil F. Alexander.  She was a well-known hymn writer at the time and penned nearly 400 hymns and poems, this being one of her most popular.

All things bright and beautiful, 
all creatures great and small, 
all things wise and wonderful, 
the Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens, 
each little bird that sings, 
God made their glowing colours, 
God made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain, 
the river running by, 
the sunset and the morning 
that brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter, 
the pleasant summer sun, 
the ripe fruits in the garden: 
God made them ev’ry one.

God gave us eyes to see them, 
and lips that we might tell 
how great is God Almighty, 
who has made all things well.

This is clearly a hymn about the Creator and all that is found in this beautiful world of ours. Such lovely imagery to describe how very good everything is – flowers, birds, mountains, rivers, seasons and the food we harvest.  I suppose it should have directed me to think about the value of our environment, the treasure that is this planet of ours.  But somehow, my mind went another way.

Perhaps you are a believer in God the Creator, perhaps not.  One thing that is clear to me is that, either way, we are living in and amongst wonders that are valuable beyond measure.  This hymn reminds me of that.  Reminds me of the immense variety of beauty that we have access to – the tiniest wing, the grandest mountain.  And when I start to think of this, somewhere very deep within me, I know this is a metaphor for all who live together on this planet.  We are beautiful.  Deeply and richly beautiful.  All of us. In our differences, in our sameness. Solely because we are part of this vast creation.

The concept of beauty is a tarnished ideal.  It is a difficult word to define and I don’t mean it as a superficial or temporary state. Beauty, to me, is about something that inspires us to look beyond our own perceptions and be awed by what is revealed. Nature often does that – as does art and music.  Pushing us into some other realm where we find all kinds of feelings and experiences.  One of our most difficult tasks as humans is to do this with those that are different from us – those with different experiences of this world, those with different practices, those from different places.  And especially, those that tell us that we’ve hurt them.  But we must be willing to see the beauty that lies in that which makes us uncomfortable because it is there.  Disregarding it reveals our ugliness. It makes our world very small and one thing I know most certainly, is that our beautiful world is anything but small.

So, in this time of building walls between us and them, of turning our backs on them in favour of us, I hope we can find a way to look past our insecurities and fears to find the beauty that exists within every living soul.  We protect nothing of our selves when we express hatred and ugliness, when we exclude and ignore – we simply tarnish our own beauty, and that is a tragedy. My beauty and yours may vary immensely, but so what?  We are mountains and rivers, summer and winter, sunsets and sunrises.  We are given eyes to see each other.  To see our beauty.  Look deeply and be inspired to feel and engage with the diversity that is humanity.   For we have truly been made well, all of us creatures, great and small.