[Fifth in series: “Summer Psalms”]
As long as I can remember, I have marveled at the world around me. Growing up I spent a lot of time visiting relatives who lived in rural Missouri. I understood that the land and the animals were things to be cared for. I never tired of looking toward the sky and imagining what caused the beauty and what prevented everything from colliding. I continue to enjoy going camping and sitting outside enjoying the ever-changing landscape of nature. How great must God be to imagine and create such a complicated and magnificent universe! From whole galaxies to the way plants grow, creation is an unbelievably well-ordered masterpiece that no human could conceive.
Let us pray…Every creature, every plant, every rock and grain of sand proclaims the glory of its Creator; worships through color, shape, scent and form. A multi-sensory song of praise, Creator God, may we join with the whole of your creation in praising you, our Creator, through the fragrance and melody of our lives. Amen.
The writer of Psalm 8 is filled with wonder at what he sees when he looks toward the heavens. Even though his understanding of what he sees is very different from what we now know about the universe, this writer is awestruck. It is not simply that he feels small in comparison to what he sees; it is also that he realizes the significance of being made in God’s image. The God who made all that is magnificent in the universe also made me! That realization is enough to render most of us speechless.
“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth! When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made – the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place – what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?”
Did you ever lie in the grass and look up at the sky, trying to pick out shapes in the clouds? Or look up at the night sky and stare in amazement at the light show that God puts on? We’ve been watching the TV series, “The Astronaut Wives Club” this summer. It reminds me of the early days of the space program and how fascinated we became with what might be out there. I think that much of our fascination grew out of our amazement at God’s Creation. I also think that our scientific knowledge and exploration may have dulled some of our wonder at God’s Creation and started us looking at our own accomplishments. I wonder if we may have forgotten our place. “You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. This is not a statement bragging about how great we humans are. This is a proclamation of amazement that God has chosen to treat us so well within the realm of Creation. The writer marvels at the fact that God even bothers to consider humanity.
“You’ve let them rule over your handiwork, putting everything under their feet – all sheep and all cattle, the wild animals too, the birds in the sky, the fish of the ocean, everything that travels the pathways of the sea.” The psalmist echoes the words of Genesis that tell of the creation of the first humans: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” The psalmist also understands that what God gave us is a unique privilege, not an exclusive right. The world that is at our feet is not there for us to trample. It is there to receive our care, for us to provide for it, as a whole and in each part, and to seek Creation’s fulfillment. There is “royal” language in this psalm that calls us to see ourselves as reflecting the character of God. The dominion we are given is a relationship,
not a dictatorship. In our “dominion” over creation, we are to remember the covenant and God’s commands, and not seek our own good at the expense of the domestic and wild world.
The United Methodist Church has long held that part of our mission as the church is to respectfully engage the inevitable controversies present within a diverse culture and seek the mind of Christ and to do the will of God in all things. With that in mind, our Book of Discipline includes a section entitled: The Social Principles. In this document we find a variety of statements that reflect our understanding of the will of God for the church in many areas of our culture. The first section of this document deals with The Natural World – What God has created for us to steward.
“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it…God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.” The implications of this responsibility are, of course, far-reaching. How we interpret humanity’s proper governance over the rest of creation must go into assessing questions regarding ecology; food production, distribution, and consumption; medical and technological advancements; even the morality of puppy mills and the treatment of endangered species. To be human is to be responsible for our fellow creatures, and we must take that responsibility with the utmost seriousness. Our social principles acknowledge that there are wide differences of opinion about these issues and many others that fall into this discussion. We do not intend to come to the table with lists of demands that ignore the economic and political realities of the modern world. What we seek is to involve God in every conversation that has to do with the way we use and manage the resources God has provided. In this way we are reminded that God intends for us to be stewards, not users, of His Creation. God challenges us to maintain the world for generations after us. God asks us to love the world as he does and take joy in nurturing it and helping it to grow. Psalm 8 reminds us of the awesome beauty of the earth and all that God breathed into existence. It also reminds us to be humble. Each of us is still that awestruck person gazing toward the heavens in amazement. Each of us bears the image of God. We must recognize that we are part of the creation over which God has given us dominion. We do not stand apart or above our fellow creatures; we stand alongside them. All creatures, including human beings, live together and interdependently with one another. As much as we have dominion over creation, we are also dependent upon it for our well-being. Our sovereignty can never mean that we place ourselves over-against creation. For the beauty of the earth, let us give God our thankful praise. As “lords” over creation, we are in fact servants of it. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.