Editor’s Note: Working Preacher published commentaries that correspond with the readings for Season of Creation 2021: Series B (The Word Series). A full listing of worship resources (including liturgies to accompany the readings) can be found online at http://seasonofcreation.com/worship-resources/readings/.
Blue and calm. Dark and still. Pink at dawn or twilight. Leaden with a storm. The sky has long fascinated me. I listened carefully to my mother who told me not to glare into the sun as it may hurt my eyes, but she said it is alright to stare at the sky. So as a young girl, after finding the softest green patches of warmed grass I would stare up at the sky feeling the enormity of the universe and its mysteries, letting the washes of color take me over. During summer camps, I would sit amazed beside the campfires, before a dormant sense of unease erupted as I looked up at the terrifying, beautiful star filled sky.
The term translated “heaven” in the Old Testament has been popularly referred to as the cloud-dotted sky we see drawn in paintings, rather than a mystic abode of God’s, separate from the material earth we know. However, I appreciate how in languages such as Korean, the understanding of the term for sky, translated from English to haneul, can also be translated directly into “heaven.” This points directly to the sky as a window for us to see heaven and the glory of God who created all living matter and creatures. The linguistic correlation afforded in Korean provides a perspective into the magnificence and wonder of the universe, helping us understand God as the creator of all we see.
In Psalm 19, the sky proclaims God’s glory and presence on earth. As we look to the sky, a window opens for us to see the majestic beauty of God. As the sky reveals God’s glory, it helps us recognize the wonder of God’s creation and God’s creativity. God who made the sky, makes all creation, including the human creature. God who made the sky is with us today and will be with us every day. We are never alone. God is present with us and with all God’s creation. When we open our eyes to the sky, we see God’s glory. And we are reminded that God creates. Creation belongs to God.
We are reminded that if we humans fail to take care of God’s good earth, disastrous consequences can occur which we may not be able to reverse. Indeed, we can witness such consequences already. The earth experiences climate change. The earth suffers. Parts of the earth are dying as humanity continues to use it without replenishing, polluting, eradicating natural resources, endangering all forms of life, and spewing carbon dioxide into the sky. These negative practices cause further pain and suffering within God’s creation. When the sky becomes polluted and we cannot see through the smog, we need trees and other plants to become the lungs for the earth to clean up the air, which will restore the sky and allow God’s glory to shine.
The sky tells stories and reveals the truth about the impacts of climate change. When the atmosphere shifts and becomes eclipsed by toxic pollution, submerged in fiery orange and blood red skies, we know that the natural cycle is in peril and that a cry for help vaults from the earth and all creation. That is part of the message found in Jeremiah 4:23-28. Jeremiah 4:27 states, “For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black. For I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back” (Jeremiah 4:27-28, ESV).
A call to take care of the planet includes taking care and working for the water, the land, and the sky. God’s creation is interconnected and thus, interdependent. The sky and the earth are in a constant state of flux, reacting against one another. If we destroy the land, we will end up destroying the sky as all things are interconnected and interrelated. We receive light from the sky and pollution will prevent light from seeping in to give forth life on the planet.
The heavens/sky remind us of our place in the entire spectrum of creation, as caretakers of this planet, and the call to care for all God’s creation so God’s creation can flourish. God the creator colors the skies and blows beauty into all the lands. The Spirit found in the wind in the sky gives us new life, renews us, and sustains us. God is present with us today and every day. We see the presence of God in all of God’s creation. The beauty and glory of God astounds us and declares God’s gracious presence with us in the world.
We are never alone. We just need to open our eyes and see God.
The cross of Christ shows God’s love for humanity—and for God’s creation—the sky, the earth, and all creation. The crucifixion carried a cosmic purpose. When Jesus died on the cross, the heavens were weeping. The ‘dark heavens’ at the crucifixion reveals Christ’s death has a “cosmic effect.” This reminds us that God’s presence fills the sky—the sky that reveals God’s glory.
Sky refers to above and around the Earth. It refers to the domains close to Earth—the wind, the clouds, the air—the atmosphere. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is understood as ruach and in the New Testament as pneuma. Both words are translated as wind, breath, energy and Spirit of God. As we meditate on the profoundly elemental presence of wind in the sky or moonlight in the night horizon, we recognize that the Spirit of God is present in the sky. The sky proclaims God’s goodness and grace. It reveals God’s presence to humanity. The vastness of space we call sky shows the infinite goodness of God’s glory and creation.
We are to do our duties with pleasure and rejoice in creation with God. When we take care of the earth, we are to be caregivers so that the creation can thrive and flourish. The sky will rejoice in the clean air and in all the beauty of God’s creation. We are to be like the stars in the sky and shine (Philippians 2:15). We are called to radiate light for God as Christ tells us to be the salt and the light of the world. As God’s children, God’s glory and goodness should be reflected in our lives. We are to shine as do the heavens (sky) as God’s creation!