Support the Café

Search our Site

Earth and all stars

Earth and all stars

“O sing to the Lord a new song; for he has done marvelous things.”

Every time I hear the opening lines of Psalm 98, I always think of the hymn “Earth and All Stars”–and, invariably, every time I mention that hymn, someone curbsides me and asks, “Isn’t that the hymn with the line about the loud, boiling test tubes?”

It is indeed.

Actually, there’s a dozen loud things in there–loud rushing planets, loud pounding hammers, loud humming cellos, and a loud shouting army, just to name a few–and two counter-intuitive “louds” in the last verse, “loud sounding wisdom,” and “loud praying members.” The inclusion of those reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with a hearty “Thanks be to God,” at the end of a service, nor is it inappropriate that some of my best moments of gaining wisdom arrived within the framework of a heated discussion.

The lyrics to “Earth and all stars” were the brainchild of Herbert Brokering, a Lutheran minister who died in 2009. He wrote them for the 90th anniversary of St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 1964. The music was composed by David N. Johnson, of St. Olaf’s music faculty. When Brokering was asked about his inspiration for the song, he replied, “I tried to gather into a hymn of praise the many facets of life which emerge in the life of community. So there are the references to building, nature, learning, family, war, festivity. Seasons, emotions, death and resurrection, bread, wine, water, wind, sun, spirit. . . have made great impressions on my imagination.”

Our Psalm today is a reminder that joyful noise is just as important as being still and knowing God–it’s more about finding the balance of the two than it is choosing one over the other. In fact, it’s probably sinful to keep some of deafening awesome-ness of God quiet and to ourselves.

If you could write more verses to “Earth and all stars,” what are the loud entities in your life that you would share, that sing a song of praise and make a joyful noise to the Lord?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kit Carlson

Loud clashing golf clothes

Maria L. Evans

These are all great–thanks for sharing. I’m feeling a special kinship for the person who wrote the dog verse–writing “Dog hymns” for my dogs Boomer and Little Eddie–the most recent one this Easter, when I penned dog verses for “Jerusalem” and “At the Lamb’s high feast we sing.” I’ll share the latter:

At the dogs’ high feast we sing

Food for dogs we gladly bring

Medicine to kill the fleas

and the ticks with utmost ease.

Hunks of meat and juicy bones!

No dog has to dine alone!

All the dogs will be impressed

With the feast which they’ve been blessed.

Margaret Ellsworth

We used this song as an activity in our VBS this week. The kids came up with things for me to include in the verses, and then they all chimed in with “Sing to the Lord a new song.” The theme of the week was “May the Force Be With You,” so most of their suggestions ended up being Star Wars characters. “Jedis and clones, Luke and Chewbacca, sing to the Lord a new song!”


Well, I wrote a verse several years ago, and it has a story. My husband and I loved our rescued Beagle, and when called upon to assist with another rescue, we were happy to help. The dogs in question were all females who had been kept in a “puppy mill,” where they were isolated, always indoors, and always breeding, pregnant, or nursing litters of puppies. It is a terrible life for a dog. Our mission was to pick up “Dawn” from the vet, get her housebroken and socialized, and care for her returning health as we prepared her for family life.

She was the most pitiful little thing when we picked her up–terrified, shaking, probably in a bit of pain from being spayed. She stayed that way for the long drive home. As we approached our house, we decided to let her out with our own dog in the nearby fenced dog park.

Dawn simply exploded with joy when she was released from her leash. She ran around, she rolled in the grass, she rushed up to other dogs to invite them to play. I have never seen such happiness, such pleasure in simply experiencing sun, air, green grass, and the company of others. All of her pain and terror were forgotten in the simple pleasure of being alive.

We sang that hymn at church the very next Sunday, and when I got home, I wrote a verse for Dawn:

Bassetts and Labs, fleet-footed Greyhounds,

sing to the Lord a new song!

Spaniels and Chows, loud-baying Beagles,

sing to the Lord a new song!

He has done marvelous things.

I, too, will praise him with a new song!

That visit to the park was a turning point for Dawn. She learned her manners in a very short time, and she has since made her home with a woman and a little girl who love her very much. I see her occasionally. She continues to live out God’s plan for her, which is to be merry, loving, and sweet.

[akm – thanks for commenting – please sign your name when you comment. ~editor]


This one of my favorite hymns! I grew up in Kansas and learned to find God’s glory in things that seem so plain and humble, and that is what this hymn does. ‘He has done marvelous things’ indeed!

[Editor’s note: Thanks for the comment. Please leave your name next time.]

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café