All Creatures of Our God and King
“All Creatures of Our God and King”(1225)
"I tell you, that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." Luke 19:40
So many stories have arisen around St. Francis of Assisi that it’s difficult to separate truth from fiction. We know he was born in 1182 in central Italy, son of a rich merchant. After a scanty education, Francis joined the army and was captured in war. He came to Christ shortly after his release, renounced his wealth, and began travelling about the countryside, preaching the gospel, living simply, seeking to make Christ real to everyone he met.
Frances loved nature, and many stories spotlight his interaction with animals. Once, as he hiked through Italy’s Spoleto Valley, he came upon a flock of birds. When they didn’t fly away, he decided to preach them a little sermon. “My brother and sister birds,” he reportly said, “you should praise your Creator and always love Him. He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly, and all other things you need. It is God who made your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
The flock, it is said, then flew off rejoicing!
That perspective is reflected in a hymn Francis composed just before his death in 1225, called “Cantico di fratre sole” – “Song of Brother Sun.” It exhorts all creation to worship God. The sun and the moon. All the birds. All the clouds. Wind and fire. All men of tender heart. All creatures of our God and King.
Though written in 1225, an English version didn’t appear until 1919, when Rev. William H. Draper decided to use it for a children’s worship festival in Leed, England.
But is it sound theology to exhort birds and billowing clouds to lift their voices in praise? YES! “All Creatures of our God and King” simply restates an older hymn – Psalm 148 – which says:
Praise Him, sun and moon; / Praise Him, all you stars of light. . .
You great sea creatures and all the depths;/ Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Story wind; fulfilling His word;/ Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;/ Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl. . . / Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted. . . / Praise the LORD!