Have you ever been deep in the woods or at the seashore on a clear night? As you gaze at the heavens, the sight is often overwhelming. Far from city lights, you can see more stars than you’ll ever be able to count. That’s how the author of Psalm 8 felt. He was overwhelmed with what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel describes as “radical amazement.” He sees the immensity of the universe and wonders where we as humans, mere mortals, fit in.
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?
Although he didn’t know about the big bang, the apparent infinity
of the universe with over 125 billion known galaxies each with billions of solar systems, and its 13.8 billion year journey, he was in awe and wonder, and recognized the brevity of our lives in light of the grandeur of the universe.
Yet, the Psalmist has another insight as he gazes in wonder. God is near, he realizes. God’s wisdom is chanted by infants and revealed in the movements of the heavens. The largest and smallest alike reveal God’s wisdom.
And, then, in amazement, the Psalmist discovers his own uniqueness. Humankind is majestic as well. We are a little less than the angels in our creativity and freedom. Our bodies are intricate and our imaginations unfettered. On this planet, we have been given “dominion” over our earthly companions in the non-human world.
Scholars and religious teachers today, looking at the whole of scripture, are inviting us to rethink the biblical understanding of “dominion” in light of our precarious planetary situation. In one of the most significant papal documents in history, Pope Francis asserts that we have made the earth into a garbage dump. We have defaced woodlands and landscapes and eliminated species, and have turned our backs on our Mother, whose bounty gives us life. Pope Francis calls us to reverence the universe, to be awestruck at its beauty and complexity, and then act accordingly by caring for this good earth and its peoples.
Once upon a time, according to the poetry of scripture, humankind lived in a garden. The first humans were given the task of being caretakers and gardeners of creation, of recognizing our unity with all creation, and remembering that the Earth belongs to God and not us. How we treat the planet is a spiritual and ethical issue, and not just a matter of profit making and convenience.
We are called by God to be stewards of creation. To walk the earth wisely, making the world a healthier place by our actions. We can make the difference between life and death by our daily actions. In a world that often chooses destruction, we are – as Pope Francis says – to be bringers of life not just to children and adults but to all creation.
Stewardship takes many forms. Here in church we have been considering our gifts as they shape the lives of our children and youth and contribute to the health of our congregation and its mission on Cape Cod and globally. You may feel small, but you can do great things. Our actions can be tipping points between life and death for the planet and for our congregation.
Mother Teresa once noted that we aren’t called to do extraordinary things, but ordinary things in extraordinary ways. She meant that we can act prayerfully and lovingly in every situation, doing something beautiful for God, by caring for those around us.
Everything we do matters to God, regardless of how small, and we love the Creator best by loving what God loves, the world in which we live and the earthly companions, human and non-human alike.
The world is saved, as the Jewish mystics say, one action at a time. If you save one soul or protect one species, you save the world. Next Sunday, our children will journey down to Craigville to clean the beach. This is a small act, but multiplied on a day to day basis, it will bring beauty to our beaches and possibly save the lives of our animal companions by eliminating plastics from their environment.
Nothing is too small. The smallest act can change the world. Our stewardship involves generosity of our personal treasure. Do we hoard our resources or generously share them with our congregation and persons in need? Our generosity involves our daily commitment to living carefully and treasuring the earth. Our generosity also involves discovering our particular gifts and using them to God’s glory and the well-being of those around us, perhaps by sharing a talent or gift or hobby with the youth and children of the church or at the soup kitchen or baby center.
Your small act can bring life to the world. Five loaves and two fish can feed a multitude. A few pennies each day contributed to Angels Place or UNICEF can transform the life of a child. Recycling and conserving energy can lower the burden we place on the planet through the use of fossil fuels. God loves the world and wants us to love it as well.
We live in a glorious universe. Our brothers and sisters are intricately and wonderfully made. The glory of God bursts forth with each sunrise and God’s wisdom is proclaimed by a breaching whale, an osprey in flight, a wild turkey racing across a cranberry bog, and your own precious life and the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Yes, when we look at the heavens, we can feel so small. Yet, when God looks at us, God sees beauty, and the good we can do in the world, and invites to be healing companions on this wonderful planet earth.