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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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When I gaze upon the beauty of God’s work, sometimes all I can say is “How majestic is your name in all the earth.” Today’s scripture speaks of the wonder of God’s creation. It starts out by saying: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (See Psalm 8.) There was a time in my life before I retired from the field of education that I used to commute long distances on an interstate highway to get to work. I would leave early in the morning, off to my destination. Much of the time I drove along in silence, marveling at the beauty and intricacy of what God had spoken into existence at the beginning of time. It was during these commutes that I came to understand that God’s creation truly is majestic.
The second part of today’s scripture focuses on that sense of insignificance that I felt as I drove along. For example, verses 3 and 4 say: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” What is humankind, indeed, in the face of God’s magnificence? Yes, God has made us a little lower than the angels. God has crowned us with glory and honor. God has given us dominion over all that God has made. But in the broader scheme of things, what is humankind that God is even mindful of us? How do our meager accomplishments measure up against what God has done? The answer is that they don’t.
One of the trips I made on a regular basis took me from east to west as I drove from Chicago to DeKalb on Interstate 88, which is now the Ronald Reagan Expressway. I had to leave my house before dawn to get to a meeting or a class on time. It’s interesting to note that on my way, the landscape changed many times. The trip was about 90 miles, and I used to divide it up into legs to make it more manageable. On the first leg of the trip, the landscape changed from vacant lots and concrete slabs to suburban residential communities. On the second leg of the trip, the concrete and congestion began to yield to shopping malls and office plazas. But it was on the third leg of the trip that something special always happened. Instead of office buildings, farmland stretched as far as the eye could see. And there was space all around to breathe and think and feel and to savor the beauty of what God had made.
I particularly remember the aromas of early spring. There were many open fields emitting the smells of freshly mowed grass or freshly cut crops. There were the scents of lilacs and clover and that unmistakable scent of the ground thawing in the early spring or the smell of rain in the air and the promise of new life that it all brought to mind. The colors also were vibrant. Purples and yellows and reds and greens and rich browns set against the backdrop of the blue, blue sky, sometimes dotted with clouds, sometimes not.
And there were horses. Every time I passed milepost 103, I looked to my left and saw four or five horses just standing in the field. They always faced south for some reason. This sounds silly, but every time I passed them I would wave and say “Hi, horses.” They never answered back, of course. But their very presence represented stability and wonder.
I remember one trip in particular. The highway stretched out in a flat plain ahead of me as I drove on this narrow stretch of road. And above it all was the endless sky spanning forever in all directions, unmarred by smokestacks or high-rise buildings. On that day as I looked through the windshield, I saw the sky, so clear and pure and endless, as it hung in the eternal space all around me. I was so struck by the beauty and the majesty of it all that I gasped out loud and thanked God for the Divine portrait that I beheld. But there was still more. I glanced in my rear-view mirror. And there was the sun peeking over the horizon at the dawn to pay honor to the new day. The word awesome does not do justice to the beauty of that moment. I felt so blessed, but at the same time I felt absolutely insignificant in the broader scheme of things. And all I could say was Lord, Our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth! What a blessing!
During those long trips, I reached several conclusions. God is greater than our insecurities. God is greater than our pain. God is greater than our sorrow. God is greater than our disappointments. God is the author of time, the creator of our beginnings, and keeper of our endings. God is greater than the great! God is stronger than the strong! God is our all in all! And those things became very clear to me on the days that I drove from east to west in those mornings just before dawn. How honored I felt. How humbled I felt in God’s magnificent presence. And I had a strong sense of receiving a blessing that was tailor made just for me. The only thing I can say in response is “Lord, O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Amen.