The Earth is the Lord’s

Sunday, April 21, 2024
God’s Playlist
Psalm 8 & 104
Rev. Dr. Troy Hauser Brydon

Share this message with a friend!

Play Video

I’m pretty sure almost everyone in the U.S. knows who Caitlin Clark is at this point. Over the past four years she has been one of the most dominant players in college basketball. She played for her home school of Iowa and has made the Hawkeyes among the elite teams of late. For the past two seasons her teams have made it to the national title game. Clark is known for her shooting skills. She regularly made “logo” threes, pulling up 30+ feet from the basket and hitting nothing but net. She’s an excellent passer with great court vision. Just this past week she was the first pick in the WNBA draft. 

Clark has an absurd number of records to her name at this point. She has more 30-point games than any man or woman in Division I in the past 25 seasons. She’s the Big Ten’s all-time leader in assists. She’s the Division I career scoring leader — men or women. She has the highest scoring game in Iowa history. She has the Big Ten 3-point record and the NCAA single-season 3-point record. She’s scored more points than any other player in the NCAA tournament. She was the AP player of the year for two years. And that’s not all the marks she has. Caitlin Clark is absurdly good at what she does, and her star power has drawn attention to how great women’s basketball is. 

As good at she is, her highest scoring game was only 49 points. Only. It came against Michigan on the night she broke the women’s career scoring record. Iowa won the game 106-89, so as good as Clark was, she could not single-handedly beat Michigan. She would have lost by 40 points, 89-49. You see, Caitlin Clark is important, but she is not all alone on her team. She had a role to play, and she played it well. 

This is not a sermon about women’s basketball. It’s about God’s creation, but I’m going to focus on the two psalms we read this morning and to think about who we are in the creation. Like Clark, you are important, but you are not the center of the universe. You also have a God-given role to play. 

We’ll begin with Psalm 8. I know we think of psalms as praise, but as I shared last week, there are lots of different genres of psalms. While this is the eighth psalm, it is the first psalm of praise in the book. The first seven are prayers for God’s salvation, and then this one interrupts that series with praise about who God is, “The Lord is the [God] whose majesty is visible in the whole world.” It begins and ends with the same praise, “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” God’s majesty is everywhere we look — in sky and sea, in young and old, in the moon and stars. 

Yet, verse four asks an important question. The ancients looked at the earth and sky and noticed that they were only one small part of it. In the vastness of it all, what are human beings that you, God, are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? And the psalm answers that God made humans with a special place in the creation. God made us “a little lower than the angels” and gave us “dominion” over the creation. That is, how God takes matter and makes trees and air and frogs and mountains, humans are to take the very material of creation and treat it in a way that mirrors God’s creative care. Dominion is not domination. It is responsibility. Humans are servants of God and strive to imitate God in how we care for the creation. We “use [our] power over creatures in a way that serves the purposes and practices” of God, our Sovereign. 

So, at our best, we are imitators of our creator. At our best, we treat every atom of God’s creation with respect and care. We cultivate the ground to produce harvests. We train animals to assist in work and be our pets. We fish in the rivers that we protect. 

But, we all know that we are often not at our best. In the words of one of our church’s confessions, “We rebel against God; we hide from our Creator. Ignoring God’s commandments we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.” We have taken the role God has given us and used the freedom God has given us to become self-centered in how we treat the creation. It has become about us and what we can get out of it. This is a distortion of God’s purpose and destructive to our home. 

We are important. Psalm 8 reveals our remarkable role. But we are not the center of the universe. God is. And you and I are for sure not God! That’s why I’ve chosen to pair Psalm 8 with Psalm 104. Psalm 8 shows our important place in the creation, but Psalm 104 balances that out by de-centering us. God created everything for God’s purposes, and we are the beneficiaries of being a part of that work. God did not create the heavens and the earth solely for us. This magnificent psalm focuses on praising God for the wonders of creation. God stretches out the heavens like a tent. God sets the earth on its foundations. God make springs gush forth in valleys. Why? Because they give drink to wild animals. The birds make their nests near those streams.  From heaven God waters the mountains, and the earth itself is satisfied with God’s work. 

Notice how we humans are not the center of this — only part of it. Humans are in the psalm; we are, after all, part of God’s creation. God causes plants to grow for people to use; from that we make wine that gladdens our hearts, oil that softens our skin, and bread that sustains us. The psalm moves on from humans back to other aspects of creation. There are trees. There are mountains for goats. The moon marks seasons. The sun follows its rhythm of rising and setting. There is orderliness and purpose to all of this. It’s a place of balance and life. 

The psalm turns its attention to the sea. It’s filled with innumerable creatures, great and small. Humans build ships for fishing and transport, but while they’re out on that great expanse they spy Leviathan. Now, this text is not a scientific description of the world. Our understanding of creation is dramatically different thousands of years later, but here’s what I find really interesting about Leviathan appearing here. Leviathan was understood as a mysterious sea serpent. It shows up in poetry of the time representing chaos. Sort of like the Loch Ness Monster or a mermaid, Leviathan is a way of describing something chaotic and untamable. Yet, in this psalm, Leviathan is not something to be feared. It’s something that God created and that “sports” in the sea. It plays. Even Leviathan is part of God’s loving creation. 

The psalm wraps up in praise, but before it closes, it offers one line that seems to come out of nowhere. “Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” Perhaps it’s because I’m now thinking of mermaids, but I was just recalling Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid singing in her grotto, “Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you say my collection’s complete?” Could you imagine if she finished that song by singing, “But curse anyone who dares even look at my stuff!”? The ending of this psalm feels like that. Everything is glorious, but then we’re reminded that it’s not as it should be. Sin has infected God’s glorious creation and affected everything. As part of that, we humans keep trying to make ourselves the center of the creation. We are not. 

As a reminder — You are important. You are not the center of the universe. And you have a God-given role to play. What is that role? To be a caretaker and cultivator of creation. To have dominion that does not dominate. To live gently and to love greatly. To live in such a way that we have revealed God’s loving care through our lives. 

Have you ever gone to the beach here in Grand Haven, put your blanket and chair down, and settled in for a glorious beach day, only to notice all the litter others have left behind, as though the beach were a dump? Cigarette butts. Cans. Bags. When I see that, I get angry. Maybe not quite to the “let sinners be consumed from the earth” level angry, but somewhere approaching that. It’s disgusting, and it flies in the face of how God instructs us to care for the creation. It says, “I am the center of it all, so I can do whatever I want.” Rather than being a caretaker, we deface. 

Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, the author of Following Jesus in a Warming World, came to speak here a few weeks ago. His book begins with words said by his brother after coming home from college. “I’m a vegetarian,” he brother said. “His words clanged across the chasm between us,” the author admits. “Vague images of hemp friendship bracelets, vegan pizzas, and red paint dripping off fur coats swam across my mind. I couldn’t name one person from my…Christian school or church who was a vegetarian.” 

But as he lives with the idea, space in his life opens up. He continues, “When I had ears to hear him, the descriptions of his learning and growth mapped perfectly onto the Christian values and worldview we had already been given. For him, becoming a vegetarian, joining the Sierra Club’s mailing list, and memorizing the bus routes to and from his Christian college campus did not constitute a rejection of our Christian values but were an expression of them. He had not jettisoned his Christian identity. He was living more fully into it.”

Friends, the earth is the Lord’s. Those are words from another psalm for another day. But know this. 

You are important.

You are not the center of the universe.

You have a God-given role to play.

So play it well and for the glory of God.