O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals[a] that you care for them?
5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,[b]
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8 NRSV)
David slept under the heavens and the work of the Creator’s fingers for years. He gazed on the moon and the stars that God created and must have felt insignificant among that grandeur.
And so do we. We feel so small among all those stars and the vast sky. We can hardly take our eyes off this view and the further away from an earthly light source we get, the more astounding the scene and the emotions it evokes. We can’t find the words to describe what we’re feeling.
David wrote this Psalm to try and put into words what he was feeling. Sovereign and majestic are just the beginning. Even babes in arms sing God’s praise. God uses even the weakest of us to defeat the chaotic forces that threaten this creation.
We may feel insignificant gazing on the night sky. Then we remember what we’ve learned: God remembers us; God cares for us; God pays attention to us.
There’s more. God has made us kings and queens. God has given has dominion over creation.
All we can say is, “Wow.”
We could turn to guilt trips at this point: about fossil fuels, and mining practices, and… well, you know what I mean. But if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I don’t like to do that. Especially on this topic. Because it’s so complicated.
Do we stop developing nations from cutting down their forests? They need the wood for cooking and heating. Workers need the income to support their families. So, we bring in alternatives to save the forests and perhaps end up with worse problems.
Do we use paper or plastic? What happens to the batteries on a hybrid car? If we don’t buy books, we use an E-reader and where do they go to die?
It seems as if every action has a rippling effect. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We’re damned if we do; damned if we don’t.
Perhaps we don’t have to worry about it, some will say. The world is going to end soon. So, eat, drink and be merry. It doesn’t matter how we use up the earth.
Others are living simply, gardening, re-purposing, recycling… They compost the kitchen scraps for next year’s planting. They can food for the winter. A few of them drive us crazy with their preaching.
Still others fight back with name calling, like “tree huggers.” They point out that the cost of products is high because of what they believe are excessive regulations. People lose their jobs over these same regulations.
Are we having strange weather or is climate change real due to global warming?
Where and how do we find the balance?
I have recently returned to composting. I used to compost grass and leaves. This time I added kitchen scraps. I knew that eventually the compost would heat up and cool down. The result would be good soil for my gardens. And, I felt less guilty about the food that went bad in my refrigerator!
A few weeks ago I turned the compost to speed up the process. I found insects and worms. I understood the worms and valued them. But I didn’t expect the tiny ants and other little microbes that were happily moving through my garbage.
What I learned was, that these little critters were eating the compost and leaving behind castings (poop.) That’s what turns to dirt, apparently. The circle of life begins with some dirt and a seed. The seed grows into a cucumber or a zucchini or a strawberry. What doesn’t get eaten, goes into the composter and becomes soil for the next crop.
God’s creation is amazing. The beauty of the multiple floral and fauna, and also the way these cycles work to sustain the creation.
And that’s where we return to the starry night sky. While we feel our insignificance, we remember that God cares for us. God hasn’t abandoned us. That God is always re-creating and redeeming creation.
We recognize our significance to God. We’ve been crowned and given an important occupation: dominion of creation. Not domination, but caring for it like good kings and queens care for their people.
The problem comes when the sun rises. Life slips into what it believes is it’s entitled place at the head of the line. Creation will have to wait while we take care of the worries and the problems of the day. We forget. We didn’t mean to forget. There’s so much going on and so many demands on our time and attention.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus’ parables talked often about agriculture? Sheep and goats, mustard seeds, sowing and reaping. I’m not sure he ever used a hoe, but he certainly knew a lot about growing things. I wonder if we might return to those parables and learn the lessons: that we can’t control the seeds growing, we can only sow and water and weed around it; that God cares for God’s creation so much that he’ll leave 99 sheep to find the one lost lamb; that the tiniest seed can grow into a huge tree five times taller than you and me.
As we gaze at the starry sky and before the sun rises, it’s a good time to say, “Thank you.” Remember how we teach our children to say “thank you”? It teaches them manners. And it also helps them internalize the gift or the compliment.
Let’s do that. Let’s say thank you to God for the gifts of creation and redemption and re-creation. Let’s say thank you for the cycles of life that keep this planet running along. Let’s confess what we know we do to hurt the creation.
Then, let’s listen. Affirm what you are already doing for the earth: canning fruit from your trees, composting, working in your garden, recycling, re-purposing. Listen to the Holy Spirit share with us one thing we can do to touch the earth more gently.
And before we leave that beautiful, magnificent night sky, feel the majesty and the glory of the creator. Even if you can’t express it, feel it. That’s what matters.
David slept under those stars and felt that same insignificance and the same inability to properly express his feelings. We can’t put into words what our hearts are exploding to say.
Simply take it in. Live for a few moments in the experience. Carry it with you into the light of day. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into a place where you can touch the earth a little more gently, learning as you go.
All glory and honor be to God.