“In every leaf that trembles” is one of the many evocative lines about God’s omnipresence in Bob Dylan’s song Every Grain of Sand.
I think it is my favourite song from the last of Dylan’s trio of “Gospel Years” albums. It is less overtly Christian than most of the other songs, but it does communicate a sense of wonder that we can feel when we reflect on the Creator’s presence in the world.
Dylan sings from the perspective of Cain, who after he had killed his brother Abel could not outrun God’s presence or care. It is a story that is also unfolded with haunting poetic power in Psalm 139.
Andrew Wilson in his latest book The God of All Things explores the significance of 60 things in the Bible from dust to clothes, seeking to “rediscover the sacred in an everyday world.” He says that when a preacher mentions one of these everyday images the message of the everyday object creates a chain reaction in the imagination of the hearers. Every time they see that object the point of the sermon comes to mind.
How much of life simply passes us by? Why have we allowed the knack of noticing to fall into such misuse?
Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic, in her Revelations of Divine Love manages to weave profound observations about the nature of life as a result of meditating on a solitary hazel nut.
“In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”
Another mystical figure, who has been having a hard time coping with a loss of physical and mental capacity, is Sister Monica Joan from BBC’S Call the Midwife.
Sister Monica Joan is often gripped by a dark fog of despair, but from time to time the fog lifts and she speaks with penetrating clarity. In a recent episode this clarity came as a result of observing a woman’s placenta with wonder.
“I have examined placenta in all kinds of lights,” she explained. “I never cease to marvel at its beauty when exposed … It grows with us, it fires us. It sustains the very beating of our blood. When I see this, with all its lines and traceries I see the miracle of God himself. I see his handiwork. And I see his love. I see where I began, what fed me, and what feeds me now. It is complete, and so, within his love am I.”
For more on that story and its fascinating connection with women’s monthly periods, click here.
Coming back to Bob Dylan in the month that he celebrates his 80th birthday, the song Every Grain of Sand concludes like this:
“I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea. Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other time it’s only me. I am hanging in the balance of a finished plan Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.”
Preachers have a great opportunity every time they preach to recapture the wonder of what God can do in our lives. Imagine that!