Creeping Things, Innumerable

tick crawling on rock
Photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

My friends, it is tick season here on the farm and so trips outside to walk the dog or feed the chickens require careful preparation and diligent application of DEET. Even with our diligence, we still pick up ticks on occasion, especially on Willmar who has no hands to remove them. There is (pun intended) an ick factor to ticks and other blood-sucking animals, an ick increased by their role as vectors for diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Sometimes when I think about ticks, I am reminded of a two line poem by Ogden Nash: “God in His wisdom made the fly,/And then forgot to tell us why.”1 In Psalm 104, however, the psalmist reminds me that the ick of the tick has more to do with my own self-centeredness than the tick’s role in the web of life. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures!” (Psalm 104:24).

To measure all of creation by its appeal to my needs and wants misses God’s concern for the littlest one in creation, the “creeping things innumerable” (Psalm 104:25). It misses also the joy of creation! We hear in the Psalm that God has made some creatures, like Leviathan, just for the fun of it. What a change of heart it takes to see the delight that God must take in ticks, considering how many of them there are.

I believe also that the tick and the other “creeping things innumerable” present a parable for us that helps us to ponder the miracle of Pentecost. On Pentecost the disciples face a problem of language. People have assembled from all over the known world and God wants them to hear the good news, but these people do not all speak the same language.

I think it’s important not to take the miracle of Pentecost for granted. The miracle could have worked the other way around: God could have caused the tongues of fire to allow each of one the visitors to Jerusalem to understand the language of the Galilean disciples. Pentecost could have been a return to the time before Babel, a return to a single language, but instead it turns into a riotous celebration of the diversity of human speech (complete with the accusation that the disciples are having too much fun!).

This is an important lesson for those of us who live in the United States, a country which suffers from a case of monolingualism. Most of my family are not native English speakers, and I have watched time and time again how even the best-intentioned of people show annoyance or confusion when faced with foreign accents. As a seminary professor, this same dynamic manifests itself over and over again in my students’ complaints about having to learn Greek or Hebrew to read the Bible. In typical American fashion, the question arises: Why learn another language when we can use English? My heart breaks when so often, the United States expects the world to speak English and to speak it with an American accent, treating the diversity of languages as a problem to be overcome.

But as the tick and Psalm 104 and Pentecost show us, God delights in the innumerable diversity of the world. Each language, no matter how small or obscure, has its place in creation and Pentecost calls us to as the church to embrace that diversity. In Pentecost, we are not called to make the world speak like us and understand our idiom; we are called to learn the languages of others and to speak the Good News in words that resonate with their mother tongues and their hearts.



  1. Ogden Nash, “The Fly,”