Newsletter January, 2021- First Presbyterian Ridgewood, NJ
Updated: Jan 30
Recently I was asked to write an online devotional for my alma mater, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The assigned date was January 1, 2021. The devotional is based on a scripture passage from the Daily Lectionary for January 1 - Psalm 8. I share it with you below.
1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You have given them dominion over the works of your
hands; you have put all things under their feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
A Devotional Reflection on (Evening) Psalm 8
By Rev. Bruce Ballantine
As we look forward to the Day of Epiphany, I am reminded that over time God has manifested Godself in a multitude of ways. And just as God once used a star to lead the Gentile Magi to Bethlehem where they discovered and worshiped the Christ child, sometimes even today God uses stars to get our attention.
In 2008, following a late dinner in a rural guest house in Malawi, my friends and I walked
outside and were immediately star-struck. Looking up at the heavens, our vision unhindered by clouds or artificial light, we were dazzled by the beauty and brightness of countless stars, sparkling like diamonds painted across the canvas of the dark June sky.
As I recall, after a moment of silence, someone uttered the familiar words of the psalmist, “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?”
I have since come to appreciate Eugene Peterson’s rendering of the same words in The Message: “I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us?”
It’s a fitting but perhaps disturbing question as we consider the majesty of God, the vastness of the universe, and what, at times, may feel like our own insignificance.
Yet the psalmist goes on to remind us that God has made human beings a little lower than God, and crowned us with glory and honor. As people created by God, we have intrinsic value and dignity. We matter. What’s more, God has given us a job to do. Specifically, God has given us dominion over creation.
Unfortunately, too many have understood dominion as a license to dominate the earth and its non-human life forms; as a license to exploit the earth and its resources for profit, without regard for the damage which such exploitation might cause; as a license to freely harm the environment, if that’s what it takes to support a certain lifestyle. In the words of the 1970 Joni Mitchell song, “we paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
However, dominion, as understood biblically, does not mean to exploit creation but to exercise care for God’s domain, in much the same way that a just ruler would care for those living in his or her realm. It means to act as responsible stewards of God’s creation.
So, the next time you see a sky full of stars, may you be reminded, not only of the majesty of God, but also that as people created by God, we have intrinsic value and dignity. Not only that, we’ve been given a job to do: creation care. May we do our job well!
Prayer: Majestic God, creator of all that is good and beautiful, so inspire us to be faithful stewards of your good creation that we might leave to future generations a healthy planet capable of sustaining life. Amen.