ST. GEORGE – A Psalm 8 Moment
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Yet) … you have given them dominion over the works of your hands.
—Psalm 8:3-4, 6a
I read Psalm 8 as a hymn of wonder at the vastness of creation, and the remarkable honor of having been entrusted with a position of authority over the creation that God delights in. For me, the sense of dominion that the Psalmist speaks of seems overshadowed by humility, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them?” Sometimes I think we have lost that sense of humility when it comes to our relationship with the world around us. I wonder how well we understand that we live on, and are part of, creation. How aware are we of our physical, biological, and ecological connection to the rest of the natural world?
Scientists tell us that our bodies are made of the elements of stardust, generated in cosmic explosions eons ago. The Bible teaches us that we have been made out of the dust of the Earth and that in Christ, all things hold together — you might call that the theological counterpart to the ecological reality that all things are interconnected.
In modern times, however, and especially in developed countries, there is a greater disconnectedness between us and the natural world. A byproduct, perhaps, of the amount of time we spend indoors and in virtual spaces rather than physical and natural spaces. The disconnectedness is evident, however, in the way we talk about “the environment,” as if it is something separate from us—a mere backdrop for human activities, a storehouse of goods, a resources for human consumption.
Thomas Berry, in his book “The Dream of the Earth,” speaks of this as a type of “autism,” that insulates us from feeling the reality of our inherent connection to the world around us. In such a state of limited awareness, it becomes all too easy to disregard or harm the natural world and its creatures, forgetting that, in doing so, we harm ourselves. If you remember the creation story, humans are not the only ones commanded to “bear fruit and multiply.” We are but one part of a creation designed and called to bear fruit.
As a pastor, I would suggest that creation sustains us, not just physically or psychologically, but spiritually as well. I once took a group of teenagers on a hike to an overlook of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. We arrived just as the sun was setting over the islands. Nobody could take their eyes off the horizon as sky, sea, cloud, and island were bathed in a perpetually changing mix of yellows, reds and finally purples. At first we sat in reverent silence; but finally, as if unable to hold back their praise, someone began softly singing a familiar hymn. Within moments everyone in the group was praising God in song, as if unconsciously. Again, these were teenagers. It was a Psalm 8 Moment. Creation itself had broken through our autism to remind us of the grandeur of both creator and creation.
With the idea of fostering a Psalm 8 Mindfulness, I invite you to attend a “Faith and Climate” conversation at New Promise Lutheran Church on Sept. 20 from 6:30-8 p.m. The event is presented by the Interfaith Power & Light organization and will feature Rob Davies, Climate Scientist from Utah State University as the keynote speaker. The evening will also include a panel of faith leaders from the St. George area. Come be part of the conversation.
In His Grip,
Pastor Joe Doherty