Hymn for the day graphic

17 In the beginning God played with the planets – Pratt

Words: Andrew Pratt
Tune: In the beginning God played with the planets by David Lee
© Copyright 1999 Stainer & Bell Ltd Used by permission of Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk

Andrew Pratt

Back in 1998 I was getting near to that point in editing a collection of hymns and songs when I thought I was about done. The collection, called Sound Bytes (Stainer & Bell, 1999) had a structure which, in part, followed the pattern of the Bible. I was missing one item. The words from Genesis 1 came to mind, ‘In the beginning…’ The book was meant for all ages to share in worship and the idea of a playful God seemed to fit the bill. David Lee wrote a superb tune to accompany the words. When, some years later, one of my great nieces, then aged about 11, said it was her favourite I reckoned it had worked.

  1. In the beginning God played with the planets,
    Set them a-spinning in time and in space,
    Stars in the night sky, while sun lit the daytime,
    Blue was the globe that was formed for our race.

  2. God saw the seas and the fish that swam in them,
    Formed the dry land where the trees soon would grow.
    Animals now could inhabit the countries,
    Warmed by the oceans or covered in snow.

  3. After the animals people were coming,
    Made in God's likeness to live on the earth;
    Big the blue planet God gave them to live on,
    Sharing its riches, its wonder and worth.

Words Andrew Pratt Tune: In the beginning God played with the planets by David Lee

© Copyright 1999 Stainer & Bell Ltd Used by permission of Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk

As time has passed I have had a love/hate relationship with the words! They feel too creationist. But I love that tune! So a few years later these words, reflecting rather more on cosmology, came to mind:

  1. God-given energy, flaring and fiery,
    stellar collisions of fury and pace;
    shafts of the light from the cosmic conception
    beaming to earth from infinity's space.

  2. Stars for millennia driven by forces
    formed at the birthing of matter and time;
    mystical sinews restraining the planets,
    elegant science and God's hidden rhyme.

  3. These are the visions of wonder and rapture,
    signs of significance, pointers to place,
    drawing us out from our narrow discernment,
    windows to love and God's infinite grace.

Words: Andrew Pratt From Reclaiming Praise (2006), Tune: In the beginning God played with the planets by David Lee

© Copyright 2006 Stainer & Bell Ltd Used by permission of Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk

I said my relationship with ‘In the beginning God played with the planets’ has been one of love/hate. But as I reflect now perhaps my colleagues, who included it in Singing the Faith, were right. The idea of God playing is obviously not meant to be taken literally, though Janet Wootton has pointed out that Proverbs 8:22-31 is full of playfulness, and one of the translations of the word used in v 30, ‘master worker’ (NRSV) is ‘playmate’ or ‘little child’. Then, if we push the analogy a bit further, play is not lacking in calculation, in scientific reckoning. Watch that cup winning goal, or the calculated and careful moves in a game of chess. And our blue planet is in precisely the right place for life, for us. At the old-fashioned state grammar school I went to, Tony, one of my biology teachers, pointed out to us that the order of creation given in Genesis is not widely adrift from what scientists deduce from an analysis of evolution and palaeontology, and the second verse mirrors that. Come to the last verse and Bible and science merge again. Think of the infinite varieties of humanity which that image, which we cannot conceive or imagine, which we name ‘God’, has enabled. Then our place here sharing the riches, wonder and worth of this planet, for me puts us in our place as those who are responsible, who have dominion where we live. And that’s something that Extinction Rebellion, and latterly, Covid-19 have impressed on us in no uncertain terms. How we behave, here and now, enables others to live better, or worse. Our choices are critical and expose the truth, or falsity, of our profession that we love God and our neighbours.

And so a prayer:

God of flaring, fiery energy,
ground of all that has been,
of all that is,
of all that will be,
inspire us by your spirit to live in loving companionship
on this planet where you have set us.
Enable us to be trusted stewards of your creation,
that our children and our children’s children may play,
live and grow in safety;
that this planet, this small part of your cosmos,
may be a haven of life and security
for millennia, for all who may follow us.
May we leave it as we found it,
or better, we pray,
Amen

Then let us listen or sing: ‘In the beginning God played with the planets’ –

Original Recording from Sound Bytes, © Copyright 1999 Stainer & Bell Ltd. Used by permission of Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk
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