Saturday, 11 June 2011

Psalm 8 Dominion over the sea

Peter Lockhart

I had a request to put up the rest of the sermon about "Care for the Creation" which I posted the end of a couple of days ago here . The sermon was based on Psalm 8, which is the Psalm set down for Trinity Sunday.In Psalm 8 we read about our responsibility as human beings.

The Psalmist declares:

“You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.”

This week as I contemplated this concept of human dominion I was drawn into reflecting on the question, “So, how is that working out for us?” or maybe it is better put: “How is our exercise of dominion going?”

This question was focussed for me after reading a blog by Byron Smith entitled, “And the sea was no more.”

Attached to the article on the blog was a video by Jeremy Jackson a Marine ecologist who painted a grim picture for the future of our oceans.

As human beings we are having a huge impact on the marine environment, an impact on a global scale. This seems to affirm the notion that we do have dominion over “the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the seas”

Of course I am not one to use one Marine Ecologist’s view on a topic found on a random blog so I did some further reading and reflecting. After confirming some of what Jeremy had to say I came to one of those kind of moments where you just go “oh no”.

If we just consider how we as human beings are dealing with the marine environment, there are some concerning issues!

The first issue is that of overfishing. In some parts of the world we have fished the marine landscape to the point exhaustion – since the 1980s world fish stocks have been in rapid decline and as we have sought new and ingenious ways of catching the fish the impact has been getting worse.

Long line fishing with millions of hooks and drag netting have horrendous side effects.

In some places the ocean floors have been absolutely devastated, disrupting the whole marine environment. The scientists simply do not know how long the recovery of these ecosystems might take.

If we add to this issue of overfishing the impact of the pollution of the world’s oceans the situation gets just that little bit more scary.

Of course most of you will have heard the news about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico emanating from the Deepwater Horizons rig. It was an accident to be sure, but no less driven by our hunger for fossil fuels.

The impact of the pollution is astounding and the toxic impact on the whole Gulf of Mexico will be felt for decades to come.

This is but a small sample of the toxins we are feeding into the water, in Queensland there have been issues with the nitrogen run off from farms and debates and disputes about the control of the use of fertilizers and so on.

Then there is just the everyday rubbish that finds its way into the sea – especially plastics.

In my reading I discovered something called the Great pacific Garbage patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is caused by the flow of ocean currents which seem to circle towards a point in the northern centre of the Pacific.

Here at the centre of this gyre is an area somewhat larger than the size of Texas with 3.5 million tonnes of trash floating just below the ocean surface.

Then add to these two issues the possibility of global warming and in particular the warming of the ocean temperatures the equilibrium of the marine environment is in dire straits. Jeremy Jackson suggested somewhere in the next 20-50 years it is plausible to argue that we will no longer be able to eat fish coming from our seas.

So to return to my question at the beginning, “So how are we going with the dominion over seas thing?”

I find it kind of bizarre this whole issue given that many of us claim to see God’s glory reflected in nature. I wonder how many of you would claim to have experienced God by the sea, for example. One would think if we see God’s glory in nature then we would respond to God’s glory by caring for it and celebrating our place as a little lower than the angels by living generously and wisely as people in this wonderful world God has created.

500 years ago John Calvin wrote about this very thing saying: “But although the Lord represents both himself and his everlasting kingdom in the mirror of his works with very great clarity, such is our stupidity that we grow increasingly dull toward such manifest testimonies, and they flow away without profiting us.”

Even if we do see something of God’s glory reflected in nature, Calvin goes on to say, “After we rashly grasp the conception of some sort of divinity, straightway we fall back into the ravings or evil imaginings of our flesh, and corrupt by our vanity the pure truth of God.”

Reading another blog the biblical scholar Daniel Deffenbaugh writes in response to the state of the environment:

"It is in a situation like this that I can be thankful for my Reformed roots – extending all the way back to Augustine, and finally to Paul – reminding me that, when I look at the heavens and the work of God's fingers, and then consider what human beings have done to it all, I cannot help but disagree with the Psalmist's hopeful anthropology: we are, in fact, a lot lower than God. We're not even close to how we were originally created. This being the case, I am then led to ask, and with some trepidation, why God would even want to be mindful of us."

The dying oceans and the disappearing stars seem to match the increasing clamour of competing voices which seek to drown out the good news of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God’s love for the world.

The whole situation draws us to reflect on Paul’s letter to the Romans not simply the snippet we read today but from Romans 8 as well

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peter, I didn't comment when you first put this up, but just wanted to give you some encouragement for reading Psalm 8 with your eyes open to the world before us. I think that if what we see there doesn't lead us to bring new and urgent questions to the text, then we're not really paying attention. I pray that your congregation were edified by this address and trust that God has yet more riches to break forth from his word.