Touch the Earth Lightly

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

In Genesis 2:15, Adam is given the mandate to stewardly care for the creation.
Psalm 104 reflects the wide view of creation found in this song.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Here is a song with a long-neglected message–that God’s people are called to be faithful stewards of God’s creation. The newer testimonies of the church also carry this message. Our Song of Hope, stanza 2 admits that “God’s world has been trapped by our fall, governments trapped by human pride, and nature polluted by human greed.” Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 16 admits that “All spheres of life…bear the wounds of our rebellion.” And paragraph 51 calls God’s people to “lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage to the world we have been given...” Christian obedience, therefore, is a call to a pattern of life that will serve the renewal of creation.

Touch the Earth Lightly

Words of Praise

At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the useful—
with granite, with gravity, with grapes.
And God gave us minds and hands
to engineer the granite,
to probe the forces of gravity,
to squeeze the grapes.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the beautiful—
with marble, with molds, with marigolds.
And God gave us compassion and imagination
to shape the marble into sculptures,
the molds into medicines,
the marigolds into tapestries of yellow and bronze.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the comic—
with croaking bullfrogs, with the buoyancy of water,
with duck-billed platypuses.
And God gave us, as imagebearers of God,
a sense of humor and different ways of seeing
in order to delight in the world.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with mystery—
with living cells and dying stars,
with black holes and the speed of light,
with human beings.
And God gave us dominion over the earth,
to till it and to nurture it with curiosity and creativity.
At the beginning of time,
God gave us a world.
Let us give praise and thanksgiving to God, our Creator.
[Reformed Worship 40:24]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Made in God’s image
to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers
to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors.
God uses our skills
for the unfolding
and well-being of his world
so that creation
and all who live in it may flourish.
Yet often we neglect our task.
Recalling our task leads us to confess our sin
and to yearn for God’s forgiveness.
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 10
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

When humans deface God’s image,
The whole world suffers:
We abuse the creation or idolize it.
We are estranged from our Creator, from our neighbor,
from our true selves, and from all that God has made.
Therefore let us confess our sins.
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 15
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Lord God, you have provided for us
a creation filled with food and water,
a universe rich with energy and resources,
and charged us to have dominion over all you have created.
But we confess that we have often spoiled your gifts,
we have put material possessions ahead of everything else,
and we have abused the environment you have provided for us.
Forgive us, Lord, and make us better stewards of your creation.
We pray through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Creator God, we confess that all too often
we have ignored and denied your lordship of the land entrusted to us
by assuming the right to do with it as we please,
by taking more from it than we have returned to it,
by taking for granted its productivity,
by denying justice to many who have labored on the land,
by wanting food for less than it costs to produce.
We confess that material values, rather than kingdom realities,
have often determined our relationships.
We have indulged our appetites with little consideration for others.
We have been more interested in our neighbor’s land than in our neighbor.
We have harbored bitterness and resentments
because of economic problems.
We are not reconciled to some who have hurt us,
even members of your body.
Lord of the church, have mercy on us.
Grant us peace with you and with each other in Christ. Amen.
[Reformed Worship 10:24]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

God of beauty and of justice,
we pray for the earth—
for restoration of soil, air, and water.
We pray for all people you have created—
for restoration of dignity and hope.
We pray for our nation and community—
for restoration of our sense of responsibility in service.
We pray even for ourselves—
for restoration of our resolve to love you and the world you made.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Acclamation
Great God, lover of life, you give sweet air and clean water. You give us a healthy garden in which to breathe and drink. You are the God of seedling, of snow, of sun that melts snow. You are the God of birds chasing birds and of puppies chasing their tails. So let us touch the earth lightly for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Touch the Earth Lightly

Tune Information

F Major or modal



Touch the Earth Lightly

Hymn Story/Background

“I came upon this text by Shirley when I was browsing in my personal library through In Every Corner, Sing: The Hymns of Shirley Erena Murray (Hope Publishing, 1992). Admittedly there was already a well-sung tune by Colin Gibson but I thought it might be interesting to set the text to a tune that sought to nuance the fragile nature of God’s creation that requires our tender stewardship. This song together with my tune to Murray’s “Come and Find the Quiet Centre” were my initial effort to set her texts following our meeting at the 1997 World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Seminar on Liturgy and Music held in Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Taiwan. In 2012, I provided a brief write up on this text and tune to Dean B. McIntyre, Director of Music Resources at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tennessee. This can be accessed at: http://www.gbod.org/lead-your-church/hymn-studies/resource/touch-the-earth-lightly
— Swee Hong Lim

Author Information

Shirley Erena Murray (b. Invercargill, New Zealand, 1931) studied music as an undergraduate but received a master’s degree (with honors) in classis and French from Otago University. Her upbringing was Methodist, but she became a Presbyterian when she married the Reverend John Stewart Murray, who was a moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Shirley began her career as a teacher of languages, but she became more active in Amnesty International, and for eight years she served the Labor Party Research Unit of Parliament. Her involvement in these organizations has enriched her writing of hymns, which address human rights, women’s concerns, justice, peace, the integrity of creation, and the unity of the church. Many of her hymns have been performed in CCA and WCC assemblies. In recognition for her service as a writer of hymns, the New Zealand government honored her as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the Queen’s birthday on 3 June 2001. Through Hope Publishing House, Murray has published three collections of her hymns: In Every Corner Sing (eighty-four hymns, 1992), Everyday in Your Spirit (forty-one hymns, 1996), and Faith Makes the Song (fifty hymns, 2002). The New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, for which she worked for a long time, has also published many of her texts (cf. back cover, Faith Makes the Song). In 2009, Otaga University conferred on her an honorary doctorate in literature for her contribution to the art of hymn writing.
I-to Loh, Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo”: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Context, p. 468, ©2011 GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago
— I-to Loh

Composer Information

Swee Hong Lim (b. 1963) is the Deer Park Assistant Professor of Sacred Music at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, Canada, and directs the Master of Sacred Music program. Prior to this, he taught at Baylor University, Waco,TX and Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He earned degrees from Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music, Manila; Southern Methodist University, Texas; and Drew University, New Jersey. He has contributed essays to Oxford Handbook on Christianity in Asia (Oxford, 2013), Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology (Canterbury, 2013), and New Songs of Celebration Render (GIA, 2013). His hymn tunes are found in many North American hymnals.
— Swee Hong Lim
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