Psalm 8: A David Psalm
God, brilliant Lord,
yours is a household name.
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.
I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.
The Message – Eugene Peterson
Of course, the old language of Psalms is beautiful. Reassuring and grounding. That is vital in our own private reading and in our corporate worship, too. But sometimes we should be shocked into newness, too. Reading Eugene Peterson’s the Message is like meeting the next generation in a family you love. You know the features, and still you are surprised to see them made new. This morning as I read Psalm 8 in the Message, I was struck by the idea of God’s “handcrafted world.” It’s involved, so involved, isn’t it? Profound attention is implied when something is crafted by hand. There is work and play. There is a love for the lovely. In the Psalm, stars are described as hand-made jewellery, mounted in their settings. That’s a beautiful image because there’s artistry there.
This Psalm sings that creation is good. That’s a simple biblical statement, but it holds a lot of water. To proclaim that creation is good is to shout out against every dualism. You can’t say that white is good and black is evil or that masculine is good and feminine is evil or any other dualistic split you can dream up if you are in the same breath proclaiming that creation is good. Because it’s all creation. Good doesn’t mean not broken. Good means loved by God. Together, we’re all part of this good, hand-crafted world. And the Psalmist reminds us that we are asked to look after each other.
Our Genesis-charge is to look after the world. Our own place is that of carer. That feels right. We aren’t just wandering around a gallery. We are tending and caring. Maybe that’s why the Psalm opens with the image of singing children. It focusses our minds on care. And maybe also makes us remember that it care isn’t all about shaping and teaching, but also about listening and celebrating.
Yesterday, the sun was just breaking through the clouds when I stepped out the door on my way to church. I tend to go in a bit earlier than my family so that I can set things up and be ready to welcome people when they arrive. So leaving the house on Sunday mornings, I don’t need to worry about the kids’ layers and the soggy shoes of the day before. The Spouse would see to all that (thank you, my dear, for that good Sabbath gift). Yesterday morning, there was still a dampness in the air from earlier rain so I grabbed my umbrella just in case. I didn’t see the rainbow until I stepped round the corner. It arched perfectly over the neighbourhood. It was beautiful and startling against the grey clouds, large against the stretching sky. Another gift.
Reading Psalm 8 and thinking about our care for the world made me think, too, of that rainbow. Because we can’t care for a rainbow. We have responsibilities to look after the world, but there are also things that are beyond us. There are good gifts around us that we are only asked to enjoy. This hand-crafted God-made world is fragile and abundant and more wonderful than we could ever imagine. There is so much that is beyond us. Maybe that’s also like children.
Blue and I made some rainbows the other day. This is a strange, messy craft which does feel a little beyond your control. Here’s how it works.
You start with a cookie sheet and you squirt on some shaving cream. Spread it out so that it covers the tray. Then dribble on some food colouring. Swirl up the colours a bit – we used a skewer for this. Now, it’s paper time.
Gently lay a piece of white paper on top of the tray and carefully flatten it. Then lift it off and set it on the table. Now, gently scrape off the shaving cream. Underneath all the colourful mess, you will find a beautifully marbled rainbow.
You can use the same tray again with another sheet of paper, though the colours will be more blurry with each impression taken. Your rainbow papers need to dry, and then can be used however you like. We like using them to write letters to aunties.
Happy Monday – and enjoy October.