By Luke Gascho, director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen College
Reprinted from Advent Devotions
I looked with amazement and delight into the holes I was digging. Each of the two-foot deep holes had a lovely profile of soil: 10 inches of topsoil, 3 inches of small river stones, and then coarse sand. This rich prairie soil provides perfect conditions for the half-acre nut, fruit and berry orchard that I am planting on the plot of land next to our home. I am committed to being kind to this land.
As our scripture reading for today asserts, God looks favorably on the land too. God’s relationship to the land is illuminated beautifully in these two versions of Psalm 85:1.
“Lord, you’ve been kind to your land.” – Common English Bible
“God, you smiled on your good earth!” – Eugene Peterson in The Message
The relationship is profound. The verse continues with the undergirding hope found in God’s regenerative purposes for what is broken. God extends a steadfast love to the people and the land.
In my land story – as in this psalm – there is love, brokenness and restoration. The backstory is that this rich land was taken from the Potawatomi in a treaty signed in 1828. The earliest map marks my land as “Elkhart Prairie,” and is next to the major trail that the Potawatomi traversed for centuries. As I work in this soil, I grieve over the injustices related to the “settling” of this landscape by Europeans. I ask questions. What have we done to the land? What have we done to our air? What have we done to our water? What are the injustices in which we have been complicit – knowingly or unknowingly?
Psalm 85 proclaims that pursuing peace is the correct response to the questions. There is a vision of great wellbeing in the last four verses. Here is a confluence of love, truth, righteousness and peace. What a hope-filled message! Salvation is at hand!
I am often on my hands and knees in my land, as I plant and nurture. This is also a time of prayerful communication for justice and peace to emanate from this parcel of ground. I am committed to being one of God’s agents for change and restoration. I follow Jesus, the incarnate one, who embodies the peace and healing that is needed.
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13(NRSV)
Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favor
To the leader. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
Lord, you were favourable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.