Scripture Text: Psalm 8
1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
2Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Today is Earth day. I’m not exactly sure what that is. Somehow, it is the day we honor the earth, remember the earth, care for the earth, revere the earth. Yes, we, we humans, who God gave dominion over the earth have apparently designated a day when we do that. Dominion…we struggle with that word. In our world of empires and winners, dominion for us connotes power. It depicts the one who is on top, who has “won out” and can make all the decisions. And so we have reaped and sowed and pumped and spilled and flattened and built and paved and thrown and used and have given little in return to this Creation that God breathed in being and then lovingly placed in our hands. Dominion is not about power; it is about responsibility; it is about care; it is, ultimately, about love. We have been given dominion over the works of God’s hands, over this Creation that God spoke from chaos.
I wish I would be more caring of the earth. Actually, I DO care. It’s just so inconvenient sometimes. It was much easier when I could recycle on the curb. It’s hard to walk to work because there is a really, really busy road to cross and I have lots to carry. And those plastic water bottles are just so easy to use. But those are just excuses. Dominion is not about convenience. God gave us Creation for our sustenance and our life and, yes, even our pleasure. But God did not give us Creation to use up, to deplete. Remember, dominion is about responsibility. Having dominion over something means loving it so much that you can do nothing less than give it the means to thrive. And thrive it will, given the chance.
When God breathed Creation into being, there was nothing about it that was static or temporary. In God’s breath was life. And as God breathed, God also invited each and every creature into the ongoing creative activity. So over time, the earth itself would move and groan and give way to shifts in its existence. Plants would dig deep into the earth for their life and some would reach extraordinary heights while others would bloom for a season and then die away to replenish and nurture the other, letting go so that life could continue on. Animals would scale or slither or walk or swim, some providing food and warmth for other creatures and some returning themselves to the earth after a time so that the soil would nurture life again. And there would be some whose purpose seems to be to do nothing else but give companionship to those with dominion and remind them what it means to care, and what it means to love.
I guess it’s good we have this day. It’s always good to have a day not to finally do what we are called to do, but to remind us what it means to have dominion, remind us what it means to care and what it means to love. The Psalm says that God made us a little lower than the angels and placed Creation in our hands. Look around at what God has done and what God has placed in your hands. And so see and breathe and savor and plant and tend and water and feed and care and love. And be in communion with all that God is and all that God has made. And let it give back to you willingly with its gifts of life. And us? Well, we are made in the very image of God, the image of the One who gives life. What does that look like? What does it mean to give life? It means to have dominion, to care, to love. “How majestic is your Name in all the earth!”
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar-I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature. (Meister Eckhart, ca. 1260-1327)
Click below for a wonderful photo prayer from the website of The United Methodist Church:
God’s Gift of the Earth: A Photo Prayer
FOR TODAY: It is Earth Day. Plant or feed or water or use. But, whatever you do, take dominion in love.
Grace and Peace,
3 thoughts on “Dominion”
Thanks for a great column on God’s Earth that sustains all of His greatest creation, LIFE. I am sending you a copy of the Earth Charter which I believe should be taught in all houses of worship and schools.
Thank you for the reminders of the gift given to us and our responsibility to lovingly care for it.