1st Sunday in Season of Creation - Genesis 1
Grace to you and peace in God, the creator of all that is, seen, and unseen. Amen.
As some of you may know, one of the hobbies that I enjoy is stargazing. So when I went to Luther Village as a resource leader a few weeks ago, I brought my telescope.
The Perseid meteor shower was peaking that week, so one night I hosted a stargazing session on the beach. I brought out my telescope, and about fifteen people joined me – mostly kids, and a few adults. Under a sky full of stars, I helped them find the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and the North Star, and Cassiopeia. We looked through the telescope, and saw stars that were invisible to the naked eye. Every once in a while, a meteor would streak across the sky, and you’d hear some oohs and ahhs.
The kids left to go to bed, and I was on the beach with my telescope about 11:30, when I saw a certain star rise above the trees in the southeast. I was pretty sure I knew what that star was. I focused my telescope on it, and sure enough, there it was… the planet Saturn. In my telescope it looked like a bright little ball with a ring around it. It was beautiful. I called over to some folks who were hanging around a campfire nearby, and they came to check it out. We all took turns gazing at this beautiful planet, amazed at what we saw.
“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?”
This summer, the James Webb Space Telescope began sending images of the cosmos back to Earth. Perhaps you’ve seen some of them. The Carina Nebula. Stephan’s Quintet. The Deep Field.
The Deep Field image reveals the oldest and furthest galaxies we’ve ever seen. All of this is in a piece of the sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. Can you imagine that? All those galaxies, in a piece of the sky the size of a grain of sand.
As we continue to learn more about this incredible universe, we continue to discover that it is vaster, more beautiful, and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined. And here we are, on this tiny little planet, orbiting an ordinary star, one of the billions in an ordinary galaxy, surrounded by billions of other galaxies.
And God saw that it was good.
And at the same time, as we learn more about the earth, as we study its animals and its oceans, its insects and its icecaps, we become more and more aware of our impact on the Earth. We become more aware of the connection between our addiction to fossil fuels, and the crisis of climate change. We become more aware of plastics polluting our oceans, discarded by a society that treats everything as disposable. Every year we add more animals and plants to the list of endangered species: the Asian elephant, the blue whale, and the sea turtle. If we have polluted what God has called good, is it still good?
Some people say creation is no longer good. That because of human sin, we now live in a fallen world.
I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.
To be sure, human sin has deeply affected our planet. That seems almost self-evident. But has human sin affected the goodness of the whole creation? Has human sin affected the goodness of Jupiter or Saturn? Has it affected the goodness of the Milky Way or the Andromeda Galaxy?
I don’t think so. And that gives me hope.
And if we take a moment just to consider the Earth – has sin erased the goodness of the Earth? Does God look at the Earth today, and still say, “It is good?”
Perhaps if God meant, “it is perfect…” well, certainly the Earth is not perfect. Much of the Earth is no longer pristine. The planet is out of balance. There is much suffering.
But God didn’t say “It is perfect.” God said, “It is good.” And perhaps “good” means something different than “perfect.” Perhaps “good” means life-giving, sacred, and beautiful.
And if by “it is good” God meant, “it is life-giving, sacred, and beautiful, well…
the Earth is life-giving;
the Earth is sacred;
and the Earth is beautiful.
So perhaps this amazing planet that God has created as our home – the life-giving, sacred, and beautiful Planet Earth – is still indeed good. Even in the face of human sin.
So perhaps it’s a both-and kind of thing:
The Earth is both very small, and very large;
It’s both fragile, and resilient;
It’s both polluted, and pristine;
It’s both filled with garbage, and filled with beauty;
It’s both suffering extinction, and teeming with life.
Some astronauts who have flown to space experience a profound shift in awareness. For some, it’s even a spiritual transformation. It’s called the Overview Effect. It’s the effect of looking down on Planet Earth from hundreds of miles up, and seeing it as a fragile blue sphere floating in the blackness of space. The effect of seeing oceans and forests and tropical storms and coastlines, but no borders. It’s the realization that this is our home, and that it’s all we have. I love how astronaut Chris Hadfield and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies described it in their song, “ISS – Is Someone Singing?”
Pushed back in my seat, look out my window – there goes home.
That ball of shiny blue is home to everybody anybody ever knew.
By the grace of God, we’ve been given the gift of a home… a beautiful, sacred, life-giving home.
A home with oceans and waterfalls, mountains and forests, sunsets, and starry night skies.
A home that we share with blue whales and polar bears, sea turtles and salmon, honey bees, and monarch butterflies.
A home that we share with eight billion other human beings, each one beautiful, beloved, and created in the image of God.
A home we’ve been given to care for, protect, and love.
A home called Planet Earth.
And God said, “It is good.”