When the shadows lengthen, and the evening falls, and the busy world is hushed;

when the gaps between the tree boughs outside my window sing out God’s praise in technicolor;

when the birdsong gathers into conspiratorial whispers deep within the hedgerow;

whilst the chipmunks steel themselves silently against the stones and burls,

and the cicadas thrum their heartbeat from deep within 100 year old sycamores;

An ancient refrain reverberates within me:

what am I that You made me?

What kind of justice, to live and move and have our being here, now?

To share such space, shot through with glory as it is?

Do the catbirds ask such questions?

Or do they worry themselves in the twilight hours over the problem of “the hominids”

and the daily tribulations we wreak upon God’s green earth?

Do they wonder whether we might learn a thing or two

by turning to the world outside our window,

crammed to overflowing with every blessed idea that every came to the Creator’s mind

all of them working out what it means to live together, to share space,

to make the music of their hearts with the gifts they have been given?

All of this I ponder in my heart as the stars begin to blink from within the limpid sky

and I strain my ears to catch the feral humming of creation at rest.

When I look at the stars….

Photograph courtesy NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Earlier this summer, NASA released images from the James Webb Telescope (you can find them here). The pictures are awesome in the oldest sense of the word, in no small part because they reveal, as one colleague put it, that “the universe is vast, incredibly old, absolutely unknowable in its entirety.”
It can be so easy to forget just how utterly…small we are. We can get so wrapped up in our own concerns and passions, so convinced that everything depends upon us, and what we do (or what we don’t do). And then we look to the stars, and remember that we are just one small speck of dust in a vast creation.
The Psalmist says it thus:

       When I look up at the heavens,
                  At the work of Love’s creation,
                  At the infinite variety of your Plan,
       What is woman that You rejoice in her,
       And man that You do delight in him?

When we get out of our own heads for a second, that question takes on new life: 

Why does God care about something as small as us? 

My own life experience tells me that we have done nothing to deserve such consideration—we humans are nowhere near perfect, and the witness of God’s Word makes it clear that this is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to the problem of humanity.

And yet, here we are. Loved by our Creator. Made in God’s Image, even.  For a purpose.
The Psalmist again:

 You have made us co-creators of the earth!
                  Guardians of the planet!
                  To care for all your creatures,
                  To tend the land, the sea, and the air we breathe;
                  All that You have made, You have placed in our hands.

We don’t have all of the answers, but trust me on this one: We don’t need to know why in order to do something that contributes to God’s vision for this broken, hurting world. We just have to care enough to try. At our best, when we trust in God, we are capable of so much good.  So look at the stars. Contemplate with gratitude the gift of being small. And then go out and share your love with the world this week. I will be right beside you, doing the same.

Seeking God

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:”To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth-when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.


Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!


FWJ7-Boxed640x480.jpgWhen I was a child, my parents would take us in the summers on camping trips to see natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Lake Tahoe. We would travel in a camper for what seemed like DAYS, and every night we would stop at one of those KOA campgrounds. As an adult, it sounds like the background for a horror movie, but as a kid, it was amazing.

Every night, we would like a fire and roast marshmallows. My mom would inevitably turn in early, done in by smoke and burning sugar. My sister and I would often want to stay out late, our heads craned upwards as we drank in a sky drenched in starlight and punctuated by comets.

Even in the late 80s and early 90s, it was hard to find a place where you could really take in the stars.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 stars that are visible to the human eye, but most of us have never really seen them. Urban light, and increasingly, the tendency of humankind to light their houses, their parking lots, their strip malls and churches 24-7 has all but erased the natural light of the heavens. In the last 100 years, humans, especially in industrialized societies like the US, have lost the ability to see, let alone wonder at, the heavens which

tell the glory of God. In order to see the stars that caused the Psalmist to gasp, we need to turn the lights off.

I wonder whether there is a moment, or a place, or an experience that you can point to, where you yourself felt the wonder and awe of a world that is filled with mystery and awe. Where you looked out on all that is created and said to yourself—who am I, that God made me? That God made all this?

Wondering at the mystery of the universe, and our place in it.
-How interesting, that the God whom we know as light is so easily marveled at in the darkness. From the beginning of time, we humans have asked the big questions about the world and our place in it. In the world of philosophy, these questions get their own subfield: metaphysics, the exploration of the fundamental nature of being and the world. As early as Aristotle, humans have looked up at the stars and wondered: what is beyond us? Is there a purpose out there? Is there something bigger than I am?

And for thousands of years, many of us have answered that question by reflecting on the existence of a Creator, a God. For us, the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

One of the important tasks of metaphysics is to demonstrate proof of your theory. How can you demonstrate that there is such a thing as a God?

For most of our history, the church has affirmed that the proof is right in front of us. In the stars we see and the tiny atoms and cells that we cannot. At the top of Mt Everest with the sherpas and in the Marietta Trench with the fishes. In the dance of existence and createdness.

Where once we marveled at the skies and wondered at its mystery, now we marvel at the complexity of creation that is revealed by the dazzling intellect of the sciences. The intricacy of our bodies shouts the name of our God. The lush biodiversity of rainforests, tropical reefs, temperate forests and even the desert confound our sense of what we know. Every day, we are presented with new reminders that there is much we do not know about this world, that there is much to marvel at. God keeps surprising us.

According to Scripture, it is as though wisdom is crying to us from every corner of the world, just as she has for millennia. Pointing her fingers she cries out—God is here! God is there! God is everywhere.

And if we pay attention, I think perhaps we can make out her voice as she rejoices in the world God has made. For the God whom we encounter in Jesus Christ makes himself known not just in history, but right now, through the continuing and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit reveals God right here, right now, through the gathered Body of Christ.

What does that look like? How is God at work in our midst?

  •   through grateful, dynamic worship, in church and at home.
  •   the ministry of the deacons
  •   the showering of love and affection upon our members when they are sick and suffering.
  •   the vibrancy of our witness to the power of prayer
  •   engagement in our community, and desire to make a difference
  •   our embrace of the beauty of God’s creation, and of the arts, the gift God has given us for sharing our appreciation for the world God has made.
  •   the warmth of hospitality which reminds us of Christ’s friendly embrace.
  •   the Spirit-filled ministry of countless good people whose quiet actions we will never fully know, but are known to God.

I wonder: what might you add to this list?

And who are we, that God should be at work amongst us?
We are the very substance of God… the imago dei, the created ones. And, thanks be to God, we learn in Scripture that God our Father embraces us with all of our questions and struggles, with all of our confidence and all of our doubt, when we are filled with wonder and when our eyes fail to see.

We are, in other words, not all that different from our ancient brothers and sisters who gazed star-ward and wondered at the mystery of the universe, who sought God in the wisdom of the world and in their community of worship. Like them, we are amazed to find that we are part of the story that God has been writing from the dawn of time, called to participate in the work of reconciliation of all creation begun in Christ that continues through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And all of us, wherever we stand, whatever we wonder at, are encompassed by our trust in the one we know as Father, Son, Holy Spirit. One God, forever and ever.

O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!