Psalm 19 

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
    but their sound[a] extends throughout the world;
their words reach the ends of the earth.

God has made a tent in heaven for the sun.
The sun is like a groom
coming out of his honeymoon suite;
like a warrior, it thrills at running its course.
It rises in one end of the sky;
its circuit is complete at the other.
Nothing escapes its heat.

The Lord’s Instruction is perfect,
reviving one’s very being.[b]
The Lord’s laws are faithful,
making naive people wise.
The Lord’s regulations are right,
gladdening the heart.
The Lord’s commands are pure,
giving light to the eyes.
Honoring the Lord is correct,
lasting forever.
The Lord’s judgments are true.
All of these are righteous!
10 They are more desirable than gold—
than tons of pure gold!
They are sweeter than honey—
even dripping off the honeycomb!
11 No doubt about it:
your servant is enlightened by them;
there is great reward in keeping them.
12 But can anyone know
what they’ve accidentally done wrong?
Clear me of any unknown sin
13         and save your servant from willful sins.
Don’t let them rule me.
Then I’ll be completely blameless;
I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.

14 Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to you,
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Season of Creation – Sky Sunday – Dominion and Exploitation

            A few years ago, I was in Monjas, Guatemala, with a group of church people. We were at the Shadow of His Wings Orphanage getting to know the amazing children who had been orphaned or abandoned by their caregivers. You see, they had come to Shadow of His Wings to live with some wonderful and loving house parents who each raised a group of about 12 children in individual homes on the property. It was close to the New Year, and we were having a celebration with a band and homemade tamales. But apparently, Guatemalan electricity is not too reliable because shortly into our celebration, just as darkness had fallen, the electricity went out and we were left in the pitch black. Now the orphanage is on the top of a mountain, and there is a small town about the size of Atkins down below. And the power to the whole area had gone off. We could not see any lights coming from any direction. And so our eyes slowly adjusted. And we began to be able to see well enough to feel comfortable walking around. All the excitement quieted down. Of course the music had stopped, and so we just walked out to the concrete pad that was the girls’ basketball court. And we just laid down on the warm concrete and looked up into the dark, night sky. With all of the lights off, the sky was pitch black. It had been a long time since I had been outside in a place void of light. It was so dark, that the brilliance of the stars popped out; they were so bright and vivid that it looked as if you could just reach right out and pluck them out of the sky. A group of gringos and a group of rowdy, giggly Guatemalan girls laid there in awe of God’s handiwork. We couldn’t speak the same language, yet we all knew the message that God was sending us that night. The heavens were declaring to us, in fact the heavens were shouting to us all about God’s glory. The sky was proclaiming God’s handiwork, and these shouts were extending for all the world to see. God’s presence was all around us!

Today’s Psalm says that the sky and the heavens share the news about God – they proclaim God’s message. And that night the heavens were shouting out that God is real, that God is creative, that God is bigger than we can understand, and that God loves us so much that he would create the beauty that we are able to witness around us daily. The sky tells the story of who the Creator is! The Psalm says that the sun rises on one end of the sky, and it makes a circuit that is complete all the way at the other side of the sky. Just by looking up we can see a sunrise and sunset each day. The variety of things that we see just by looking into the sky with our very own eyes reveals that our creator is just begging us to see and then to believe that God is good.

Not only does God provide amazing beauty in rainbows, clouds, sunrises and sunsets, but there is a vast realm that we can’t even see with our eyes alone. I asked my astrophysicist friend Dr. Jeff Robertson from Arkansas Tech what he thought I should tell people about the sky in relation to God and faith. And he said, that there is just so much that we can’t see and know about. He told me about the vastness of God and his creation. Jeff said – you’ve got to look at the Hubble Deep Space pictures, and he sent me some information about it. And I beg you to google it and check it out this afternoon. You will be blown away. And actually I’ll be posting this message on the website, if you want to go there, you can find a link to the official Hubble Telescope website. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/multimedia/index.html        So, what I learned is that in 1995, scientists trained the Hubble telescope on the darkest part of the sky for 10 days so that they could really try to look back into deep space as much as possible. They focused in on an area that had the fewest stars, and it was the size of 24 millionth of the sky. And with the telescope focusing on this tiny area, scientists ended up finding galaxy upon galaxy upon galaxy — farther and farther and farther out into space. About 3,000 galaxies could be seen. Now just to remind you, here’s what a galaxy is: A galaxy is a huge collection of gas, dust, and billions of stars and their solar systems. A galaxy is held together by gravity. You probably know that our galaxy is the Milky Way.

So there were 3,000 of these huge collection of stars and solars systems that the Hubble could see. There are at least 3,000 Milky Ways. There are 3,000 sets of billions of stars and their solar systems. The more we learn, the more amazing our world appears. Friends, “Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.” And God is so much bigger than we can even comprehend. The father of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote that in creation God “displays the invisible things of God, his power, wisdom and goodness.” (Randy Maddox, Responsible Grace, 35).
Today, I call on you to think about two things as you go about your daily routine. First, I pray that we might notice the glory of God’s creation and be thankful for it. Sometimes we get so busy scurrying here and there that we don’t even stop to pay attention to God’s glory all around us. How many times would we prefer to stare at our cell phones than enjoy God’s creation? And maybe we ought to be more deliberate about our Sabbath so that we could slow down and enjoy creation more.

The second thing I ask you to do is to think about how God asked us humans to care for the earth. If we love God, we ought to love God’s creation. And – Psalm 19 talks about following God’s law. You may remember that God has given us a responsibility for the care of creation. Listen to this. Genesis 1:28 says:  God blessed [humans] and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Genesis 2:15 says: “The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.” God’s law requires that we care for creation: that we tend it, farm it and take dominion over it.

Friends we are called to take dominion over creation – we are to take control. But that doesn’t mean we are to use it up and throw it away! We are called to take good care of it—we are called not to exploit God’s creation for our own selfish purposes, but we are called to care for it so that all might enjoy it from generation to generation.

I read a story this week about air pollution that terrified me – it said that in 2014 in Bejing, China, smog was so bad that people wore air masks, and scenes of sunrises were shown across massive tv screens throughout the city because people were starved of seeing the sun. So know that our actions are not without consequences – the cars that we drive, the energy that we use, the manufacturing systems that we have, even the household products we use can contribute to air pollution that exploits God’s creation and is destructive.

One of the ways that we can do our parts to be good stewards is to support laws that protect our environment. This is probably the best way to make helpful changes on an international basis which seems to me the best way to tackle these problems. But in addition, aren’t we all called individually to be stewards of creation in our every-day lives? We can all do our parts. This week you have an insert of ideas that will help, and you will continue to get some tips the next couple of weeks for taking small but helpful steps to preserve God’s world. There are so many resources for you to learn more about what the issues affecting our environment are today, and so I encourage you to continue learning about these issues! And then we can get into the habit of doing many of these simple things. Perhaps, we might begin to think of caring for creation, not just as an obligation or duty of stewardship, but as a tangible way to give thanks and praise to God – as a way of giving our love back to our Creator.

Day after day, and night after night:

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.