Season of Creation Worship Series, week 3 — SKY SUNDAY: Dominion and Exploitation
September 16, 2018
Consider the sky, dominion, and exploitation:
What is dominion? One definition of this noun is sovereignty or control. Dictionary definitions teach us what words mean, but so does our experience. Consider the word “weed.” A weed is “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” This definition is based on human interaction with weeds. A weed is where a human does not want it, but God created dandelions to be dandelions, which means they grow when conditions are right for them to grow. People consider dandelions weeds, but dandelions are a food source for bees and food for other animals, including humans. They are pretty and can be a source of joy when they begin to seed and children pick them up and blow them to watch the seed scatter. When children hear adults say that dandelions are weeds, then children will associate them as something bad, something unwanted.
What do dandelions have to do with dominion? We know the definition of dominion, but the meaning has to do with what we know of dominion passed on from generation to generation. Look at Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:15. Man was given dominion and responsibility to take care of the earth. Now read Genesis 3:6. Sin entered the world. Dominion was given to humanity before sin existed. What is the definition of dominion in the God-made perfect world? How should people made in God’s image define dominion? Dominion cannot be harsh, forceful, or unloving because that is not God’s nature. Consider what God must feel when looking at creation. How does that viewpoint change the definition of dominion?
Does the word exploitation have a positive or negative connotation for you? Dictionary.com defines exploit as: a striking or notable deed. Exploitation is defined as “use or utilization, especially for profit: selfish utilization.”
Last week, we talked about mountains. Mountains and their ecosystems are home to plants, birds, amphibians, and humans. Some mountains are exploited, blown up to make money, with no regard to the life that depends upon them.
In the Bible, what shows up in the sky?
We find clouds, a rainbow to serve as a covenant, angels, a star announcing Jesus’ birth, heavens torn apart at Jesus’ baptism, and darkness.
Consider the text:
The sky speaks and tells us about its Creator God in Psalm 19:1-4a.
I live in North America, but I have traveled to Europe and Africa. The cultures are different, but there’s always one thing that is familiar: the sky. There will be a sunrise and a sunset (except in a few places), stars, clouds, and weather. Rain in Nashville, Tennessee, is like rain in Johannesburg, South Africa. When told I would be in Johannesburg during the rainy season, I knew what to pack. The point is that the sky is God’s; no matter who you are or where you are, the sky speaks of God, and everyone understands.
The Psalm 19:4b-6 verses make me smile. The sun has a purpose and does it joyfully; it has a path; and it parades itself, providing heat. As mentioned in the first week, God not only created what we see, but God also created systems that give life and direction.
Psalm 19:7-9 speaks of laws, decrees, precepts, commandment, and fear. These are mentioned after a stunning visual of the skies declaring God’s glory. This psalm, then, refers to more than God’s words to us through Moses; it concerns the systems in which God set the world to function. Think of not just the Mosaic laws, but laws of nature: how the sun travels, the movement from day to night; how human bodies respond (sleep.) Remember that Genesis 1 declares creation as good! God commanded everything to be fruitful and multiply.
In this part of Psalm 19, each noun is paired with a verb: reviving, making, rejoicing, enlightening, and enduring. Only the word ordinances is followed with adjectives (true, righteous). Put them all together, and there is only good. The rebellious part of me has always considered laws, decrees, precepts, commandments, and fear as restrictive or bad. After reading this Psalm, I am convinced that good happens with obedience.
The verses 10-12 show us that what God says is to be sought after more than gold. And when we learn from them, they taste as sweet as honey; and we are rewarded. Doesn’t this make you more excited about knowing God’s word?
In Psalm 19:13, the author asks to be kept away from those who do not respect God and asks that they not have “dominion” over him. In this case, “dominion” is something that is harsh and unloving.
In closing, the author asks that his speech and thoughts be acceptable to God, because God is his foundation and savior.
Consider a sermon direction and application:
What if the sky were blocked from view? We block ourselves from the view by spending most of our time indoors or being outside with our faces in our phones. Humans also block the sky with pollution. In 2014, in Beijing, China, smog was so bad that people wore air masks; scenes of sunrises were shown across massive TV screens throughout the city. People were starved of the sun.
On a short break in a meeting, I gazed outside the window. From my vantage point, I could see into the fenced yard across the drive. Directly by the fence on my side was a tall security light. Behind the light, attached to the post, was a sheet of metal about two feet by three feet. I tried to understand why the metal was there. I concluded that the metal was supposed to reflect light back into the drive and not in the neighbor’s yard. Either neighbors had complained, or the building owners had been considerate of their light polluting the neighbors’ backyard. Our choices affect people and God’s non-human creation. Outdoor lighting, car emissions, and other human devices pollute the skies and endanger animals and humans.
Your sermon this Sunday could focus on God, the creator of the sky, and how the creator is revealed to us through God’s creation. Are we paying attention? Do we take time to enjoy God’s creation and to observe as God does?
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
How are we to experience this aspect of God if we can’t see it or choose not to pay attention?
Rev. Ryan Bennett is an elder in The United Methodist Church and Senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, TN. He also works with Blessed Earth and Blessed Earth Southeast helping clergy and lay persons practice Sabbath. Heather Bennett earned her M.S in Sustainability from Lipscomb University in 2014. She started the first chapter of Blessed Earth in 2015. Blessed Earth Southeast inspires and equips Christians to become better stewards of the earth.