Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Sky - Dominion & Exploitation" from "Season of Creation," Sermon, September 16, 2018

Community UMC, Quincy
“Season of Creation: Sky – Dominion & Exploitation”
Rev. Andrew Davis
September 16, 2018
Psalm 19

            When I look at the words of our Psalm this morning, the tune “the Heavens are telling, the glory of God” by the classical composer, Franz Joseph Haydn immediately come to mind.  I did ask about the choir singing it this morning, although that’s one piece that requires some extensive rehearsal, considering the choir only began rehearsing a few weeks ago.  Nevertheless, we will have the choir back next Sunday and it will be nice to hear their voices once again.  When it comes to Psalm 19 and music, even Beethoven and Handel have used this psalm in choral settings, which goes to show the power of word and song, the same way I get a sense of awe by just looking at the vastness of the sky. 
            Last week, we began our series, “Season of Creation” and began with talking about good beginnings, as we reflected on Genesis 1 and part of Song of Songs, then looked at the mountains and how they are a place of protection when we reflected on Psalm 125.  With all of God’s creation and the season of creation, we get a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to care for and to continue being good stewards of our environment, landscape, waterways, plants, and animals all around us as we reflect on God’s creations, but particularly the non-human creations, in this case the animals, physical landscape, waterways, trees, etc..  
            As we heard in our Psalm this morning that Anna read for us, we hear about the praises of the sky and how the sky and heavens proclaim God’s glory.  When we look up at the sky, we see many things…birds, clouds, the sun, sometimes thunder and lightning, and at night, we see the many, many stars around us, especially when we go to a dark, remote place that isn’t polluted with light.  Plus, we do see the human creations, such as different aircraft, which reminds me of how fascinating aviation and flight are too.   Like the mountains we talked about last week, we can feel and see God’s presence in the skies, as the skies are infinite and can feel God’s presence in the wind, which reminds me of ruach, or spirit or breath of God.  Across the globe, the sky is something that is common no matter where you go, as the sky is something that binds ALL of us together in God’s creation.[i]  In a re-reading of the first six verses of Psalm 19 from The Message, I absolutely love this perspective of the sky:
1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
  God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
    Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
            their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
4-5 God makes a huge dome
            for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
    leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
    racing to the tape.
That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
            from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
    warming hearts to faith.

            I remember earlier this year being asked by a youth about knowing God how is present and my response was to take a look around us; but especially look up at the sky when we see the sun, moon, stars, clouds, or the sunset.  Or, take a look at other parts of creation.  Just being in and looking around God’s creations, especially the sky is one of the ways how God is revealed to us.  While The Message’s translation of Psalm 19 reads a little bit like last week’s reading from Song of Songs because of its sensual imagery, the sky has its own quality in God’s creation.  In verses 6-8 of Genesis 1, God called the dome that separated the waters the sky, which in the account of Genesis, took place on the second day.  When we think more about it, the sky is God’s dominion of the earth, in which dominion in this case means sovereignty, or the place in which God dwells.  Even with the words dominion and exploitation that are today’s theme in the season of creation, some negative connotations may arise at hearing them because they talk about power, yet it’s how power is used.  For example,
The word dominion often has connotations of power and “lording” it over something of lesser power. Interestingly, in Genesis 1, God exercises dominion over creation and gives humanity dominion. Our dominion should reflect God’s nature and character because we are made in the image of God. We have been given the privilege, dignity, and responsibility of stewarding God’s creation…[ii]

            Even in the case of the word ‘exploitation,’ exploitation in the case of creation can “be defined as ‘use or utilization.’”[iii] If we look at exploitation as utilization and use, God intended humankind to utilize the landscape, the plants, and animals for basic needs such as clothing, food, companionship, or shelter.  However, as time has gone on, the word exploitation has changed to how things are used, more so for profit, which is where those negative connotations arise.  Even today, we see exploitation of many of our resources to the point where we may not have some of our resources left, as things may not have always been utilized to how God originally intended them.    When we utilize the sky, I don’t really believe that there is a firm way that we as humans have any dominion over the sky at all given how vast and unending it is, except maybe when we fly our aircraft through the sky, although aircraft are still small compared to the great, unfathomable vastness of the sky.  
To explain how the sky is God’s dominion and dwelling place, scholar Diana Butler Bass explains in her book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, a Spiritual Revolution that
God is in heaven; God inhabits the sky.  It is an ancient and universal answer, so ancient and universal that we do not know when or where human beings first articulated it.  And it may well be the first answer that people know in their own lives – learned in Sunday School or taught by parents or heard on the wind.[iv]

            I know growing up, even before regularly attending church or Sunday school that I learned from various family member that God inhabits the sky and looking down on us or have heart God referred to as “the person in the sky.”  Yet, that is where I can see God the most clearly, particularly when I see the moon or stars at night, given how brilliant the stars are.  When I see the vastness of the stars stretching out over like our hymn of praise calls, ‘the spangled heavens,’ there is no way we humans can have complete dominion over the sky or the heavens, unlike the other creations God gives humankind dominion of.  Diana Butler Bass further explains that in our experience as humans with the sky,
The sky is not static.  The firmament is not fixed.  Instead, a dynamic sphere of activity surrounds.  Sometimes we pay attention to it and sometimes not.  To say that God is in the sky is not to imply that God lives in a certain address above the earth.  Instead, it is an invitation to consider God’s presence at both reaches to the stars and wafts through our lives as a spiritual breeze.[v]

            Just like last week when I mentioned how small we are compared to the mountains around us, we are even smaller when it comes to the sky, something that we may never be able to comprehend when it comes to how vast the sky is.   And it’s a main reason why only God has dominion of the sky, which contains the clouds that produce water through the rain, provides us light by the sun and moon, and provides the air that we breathe.  It’s all part of how God is revealed to us in the sky, how God has dominion through the vastness of the sky, and how God utilizes the sky to give us water, light, and air. 
            As we spend some time in reflection this week and perhaps step outside to look at the sky (just don’t look directly at the sun), how often do we pay attention to the sky and how often are we taking time to enjoy God’s creation and observing what God does when we look at the sky?[vi] As God gives us dominion over creation, how are we, who are created in God’s image, practicing good stewardship with God’s creation? 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the Church say Amen!!

[i] 2018. Gbod-Assets.S3.Amazonaws.Com. Accessed September 13 2018. https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/Sept18_Season-of-Creation-Series.pdf.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid. 
[iv] Diana Butler Bass, Grounded: Finding God in the Spiritual World, a Spiritual Revolution (New York: Harper One, 2015), 99. 
[v] Butler Bass, 103. 

[vi] 2018. Gbod-Assets.S3.Amazonaws.Com. Accessed September 13 2018. https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/Sept18_Season-of-Creation-Series.pdf.

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