Lectionary reading for 1/1/2022: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25:31-46
Selected passage for reflection:
Psalm 8:1, 3:-6 NRSV
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
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? Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet…
Matthew 25:40, 44-45 NRSV
And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.…Then they will also answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
It was a move in 2009 to Anchorage, Alaska that made me consider creation in a way that I never had before. When I looked up at the sky—at the heavens there—I saw the face of God—the Big, Wide, Open. It was not just the Northern Lights, spectacular as they are, but nature was larger and nearer than I ever experienced before. I sometimes felt as if I was waking up to a landscape that stunned me with uncommon, even eerie beauty. It slowed me down; it made me stop; it led me into awe. I found myself led into another way of understanding and seeing that felt like waking up, even though I was already awake. Living in Alaska gave me back that expanding sense of wonder that is both childlike and the wisdom of true experience.
It was this sort of experience that led Dr. Katherine Hayhoe into a career as a scientist. She began as an astronomer, alive with childhood experience of the heavens. She remembers her father carrying her as a three-year-old, long after her bedtime, to point out the constellations in the night sky. Her father, a scientist himself, told her that these wonders are all the work of God’s hands.
Even as a child, Katherine wanted to work alongside God, knowing that she had a responsibility in caring for this gift of life. But what led her to become an atmospheric scientist and the Chief Scientist for the Nature Conservancy was not only the inspired awe expressed in Psalm 8. It was the recognition of the responsibilities that were there in her Christian faith to care for the poor and the hungry, the sick and those imprisoned—the very ones who Jesus asks us to see as Christ himself in Matthew 25 31-46.
Dr. Hayhoe realized that climate change is affecting all the poorest and least developed areas of the world most tragically. She saw environmental suffering that ruined crops and starvation and she saw the face of Jesus. For her the church is missing this direct link between the awe expressed in Psalm 8 and the urgency, even judgment, that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25: 31-46. Part of her calling is to help her fellow Christians see the suffering of Jesus in the devastation caused by climate change. This too is a kind of waking up to what was true and real even while we are all fully awake. It is the transcendent awareness.
Will 2021 be the year when we will return to who we are—those who are meant to care for all of life, and to listen to the cries of God's earth and its people? Hope begins with the psalmist’s insistence that as human beings we have the world at our feet. Can we as God’s people connect the beauty of Psalm 8 to the practical responsibilities of Matthew 25:31-46. If we cannot, God will not intervene, and judgement will be realized by us all.
Each year we make resolutions to increase our health through exercise or weight loss or better eating habits. This year enjoy the beauty of creation AND see the suffering that is experienced globally. Resolve to increase the health of the planet through your choices.
Creator God, as we look to the heavens may we see the gift of the world around us and name it as your holy Presence. Amen.
About the Author
Helen Cepero is a wife, mother and grandmother (Oma) to three lively grandsons. And though she’s been a spiritual director for nearly twenty-five years, she is still energized by the way the Spirit works through all of life’s experiences of the people she companions. She continues to practice spiritual direction and supervision from her home in Berkeley, CA. She is the author of Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through Attentive Writing and Christ-Shaped Character: Choosing Love, Faith and Hope both published by InterVarsity Press.