I was sitting in church last week when this hymn was sung, and I thought, I kind of like this one.  I don’t think I had heard it in quite a while, but the tune is very familiar (based on a traditional English melody) and feels like a pleasant walk in nature to me.  Obviously, the words also evoke this image – and were written by a Reverend Babcock in the late 1800s as a reflection on the many walks he took along the Niagara Escarpment in upper New York.  I will admit to being slightly perturbed by the excessive use of male imagery to represent God, somehow diminishing the grandeur of the Divine that is being described into an easily understood human package, but I will attempt to let that go as I consider this lovely little song.  Language of the time, I suppose.

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:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

I could consider these words in terms of their beautiful description of our natural world.  The rocks, the trees, the skies, the seas; morning light and rustling grass. Wonders, all.  Understanding the presence of the Creator in nature.  Or, understanding the value of nature itself in its ability to remind us of something beyond ourselves, something majestic, something spectacular.

But it brought to mind something completely different.

What struck me in these words was the idea that nature sings.  The carols of the birds, the music of the spheres.  Of course this appeals to me – I love singing.  I love that we can sing together.  I love that it is possible for each and every one of us to join together and without needing anything beyond our voices, to produce extraordinary sound, emotion, spirit, meaning and community.  We can create astounding beauty – like nature itself does for us.

If I take this a step further, I realize that singing is as much an act of joy as it is an act of admiration.  We do it because it fills us with something difficult to describe.  It makes us feel good, it makes us feel sadness, it simply makes us feel.  But it also serves to remind us of what is greater than ourselves.  Be it nature or God – or be it the wisdom of the lyrics and the beauty of the notes.  The complexity of the harmonies, the simplicity of a lovely tune.  The laughter found in silly songs, or comfort offered in times of grief.  The rhythms that get our toes tapping, the solemnity that requires us to contemplate. The observations that reflect the entire human experience.

This beautiful act of expressing through song all that we are, all that we experience, all that we see, is one I value hugely.  It is universal – we all sing.  And it should be celebrated and protected, not merely as an act of mimicry, but as an act of deliberate participation.   Our voices can speak and offer so much.  I’m not sure we really understand that we need to sing, and that we need to fight for places in which to sing together.  We sing in our cars. Alone. But when we join together, something magical starts to happen.  We become connected – to each other and to the beauty of our world.  When we take the time to craft our singing, to learn from those who have spent their lives showing us this art and how to get the most from it, we bond with those we are working and playing with and we start to develop all kinds of skills and have all kinds of experiences.

When I walk through this beautiful world and listen to the music of the spheres, I want to sing along. Join me.  Our voices can unite for many reasons.  But mostly, to reflect the beauty we see every day – in the stars, in the birds, and in the eyes of someone listening.   For when the view is difficult, the sound of our voices becomes a beacon, a respite and a valuable tool in fending off that which threatens to weigh us down.  Sweet songs lulled us to sleep as children, and they can carry us as adults.  The act of singing is a powerful one that both gives and receives.  Filled with beauty and peace, comfort and joy. The human voice is an unsurpassed instrument.  So use it… sing and share, learn and grow, and let the earth be glad.