Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection Holy Name of Jesus (January 1), Psalm

Psalm 8:
O LORD our Governor, * how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Out of the mouths of infants and children * your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, * to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, * the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him? * the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels; * you adorn him with glory and honor;

You give him mastery over the works of your hands; * you put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, * even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, * and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

O LORD our Governor, * how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Reflection on Psalm 8: by John Gibbs, PhD

God’s glory is never at the expense of human dignity and worth. That glory, "set above the heavens," discloses the place of humanity under the heavens, the moon and the stars. As we often do, this hymn writer wonders at the insignificance of we humans in the grand scheme of things. But conjoined with that wonder is the conviction that God is mindful of us and cares for us" "…what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?"

The mathematician genius Pascal, who by age 16 had written a major work in philosophy of mathematics (Essai pour les coniques), had the same wonder in his remark: "These infinite spaces, they frighten me." But by the night of November 23, 1654 that infinite space was filled for him in so profound a religious experience that thereafter his interests were turned primarily to Christian activities.

This experience met his wonder at his insignificance and worthlessness with, on the other hand, God’s consuming care for him as for each person. He wrote a remembrance of that event, and sewed it into his clothes as a constant reminder. It said: "From about 10:30 at night until about 12:30. FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and of the learned. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ…Jesus Christ…Let me never be separated from Him."

Psychological insight helps us know that poor self-image produces poor human interactions. A humanity unsure of itself, at war with others, is in no position to treasure the earth. Only by knowing ourselves treasured by God can we be enabled to treasure other people and the environment in which w all live. It’s a matter of mental and spiritual health.

We used to say, "A scout is prepared," and we wore our uniforms as marks of distinction and readiness for worthy service to others. Never would we leave so much as a chewing gum wrapper along the trail. That tradition was the inheritance into which most of the elder citizens among us were born.

That sense of self-worth, and of capacity and calling to serve the neighbor, is the sensibility required for stewardship of the earth. In gratitude for the earth-home God has given to us, we cannot befoul that earth—through industrial waste, agricultural pollution, or personal irresponsibility. Only those who live gratefully under "the glory of God" can be trusted to have "dominion over the works of your hands…"

John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 1998. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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