Today, we reflect on our place in the universe, and God’s call to us on this little blue green planet in the vastness of the cosmos. Psalm 19 connects the heavens above with the moral law within. The heavens are telling the glory of God, the Psalmist proclaims. Each day brings new revelations. Each day is a blessing, an amazing opportunity for wonder, love, and service. For those with their senses open, the most appropriate response is “radical amazement,” as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel asserts.
There are random events in the affairs of planets and persons – there may be conflict, and species vie for survival. Accidents happen, unexpected seismic events not to mention automobile accidents and acts of violence. Persons choose evil rather than good, destruction rather than creativity. Pandemic strikes and some prefer self-interest to caring for their neighbor. But within the processes of cosmic, planetary, and historical evolution there is a moral and spiritual arc – grounded in the original goodness of creation – and it aims toward truth, beauty, goodness, love, and justice. A moral and spiritual arc that inspires us to sacrifice and reach out in the face of pandemic and unexpected tragedy.
The Psalmist recognizes divine wisdom in our cells and in our souls. God’s wisdom propels galaxies and planets, and that same creative wisdom is embodied in divine law, which revives the soul, aims toward justice, and heals the soul of the nation.
The Psalmist believes – and I affirm – that we are not alone in the universe. Nor are human purposes anomalous in the universe. There are deeper purposes, the Psalmist believes, that run through the planet, our bodily systems, and our conscience. These purposes are not supernatural but reflect the deepest naturalism. Freedom is real, and we can choose against God’s way. Diseases occur, and tidal waves destroy villages. But God – who does not cause these tragedies either by will or to punish us – seeks healing in the wake of tragedy. God challenges us to choose love – strong and powerful love – when the foundations of our life and society are shaking by pandemic or riot.
The glory of God is present in every detail of human life. We are awesomely made. Think of the wonders of your nervous system, the firing synapses, the immune system, thinking process, and beating hearts. Think of how a vaccine works in relationship to our immune system. Billions of processes going on at once, right now, marvelous in nature, reflective of the interplay of divine wisdom, evolutionary competition and cooperation, bodily processes, and human choices.
I am not trying to do science here, I am speaking as a theologian and pastor, but trying to explore what it means to live in a lively God-filled, divinely inspired world, that is also an evolving world, an imperfect world, and at times an accidental world. God aims for goodness and beauty and seeks healing, but even God faces challenges and needs our help in the face of natural disaster and pandemic.
Psalm 19 connects human speech with divine wisdom. God creates with the living word, and the words we say matter. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O God, my rock and my redeemer.”
As humans, we are God’s emissaries in the world, we are God’s global caretakers. We can, by our words or actions, advance God’s realm of Shalom or stand in the way of it. God never gives up on us, and always seeks to inspire us to goodness. Still, we are free to go against God’s way: we can prefer lies to truth, fantasy to fact, hate speech to creative conversation, polarization to dialogue, incivility to polite disagreement. But we can also choose the hard work of prophetic healing, of challenge and compassion toward those with whom we disagree.
The Psalmist calls us to prayerful speech and action. Our words should be prayers. Our words should be faithful, graceful, reconciling, and truthful. We are challenged to speak the truth in love. To challenge injustice while honoring image of God in those with whom we contend. We can challenge falsehood and injustice with strength and love.
We live in a glorious world. The heavens declare the glory of God. Our cells and souls reveal loving creativity. God is calling to us today. Let us claim our role as God’s companions in healing the world and the soul of our nation.