In this week’s Season of Creation, we remember the Sky, for as they say, ‘the Sky’s the limit!’ The vastness of the Sky reminds us of our smallness and is in a sense ‘out of our reach’.
I don’t know if you can remember your first plane ride, the sense of being up in the air, seeing the clouds from the air; the perspective of disbelief (and perhaps a bit of fear) that you were up high in the sky.
In ancient societies and times, people looked to the heavens and envisaged this was where God lived, you may know the familiar, and not so politically correct image of God as an old man with a long beard who lives in some heavenly realm. Yet the Sky is considered an arena for the presence of God, as a kind of partner to earth.
Science teaches us that the sun in the Sky allows plants and living things to grow in the action of photosynthesis. The Sky is the home and realm of creatures of flight and the ushering in of the new day greeted by birdsong. So it is that the Sky becomes a sign of the constancy of God, the new creation of each day, and from ancient times was understood as a place of divine revelation.
Think of some familiar Biblical stories of what happens in the Sky:
- The Holy Spirit is pictured as a dove descending from heaven on Jesus at his baptism
- The dove carrying the olive branch to Noah and family on the ark has become a universal sign of peace
- The significant star that the learned astrologers, the Magi, followed to find the Christ Child, in the Christmas story
- The pillar of cloud seen in the sky that followed the Israelites in the time in the wilderness
- The cloud that appeared and descended on Jesus and the disciples on the mountaintop in the story of the transfiguration.
There are many stories and scriptures that point to the Sky. These stories invite their hearers to look up and see that in the Sky, God can speak.
The psalmist in Psalm 19 says “the heavens declare the glory of God”, and the Sky is a witness to God’s presence, voice, and handiwork, and speaks in a voice that is heard across the world.
The Sky could also be a symbol of warning and foreboding, like when the sky turns black or dark like in a storm. This is how the image seems used in the reading from Jeremiah (4:23-28), where we hear the prophet pointing to the grief and lament of God when people have not walked in God’s ways. The Sky or heavens grow black and the light is gone, the earth is shaking, and all of the birds of the air have fled, making the people unsettled or afraid, with the image of an angry God. This passage seems so opposite of the early creation narratives where God’s creation is pronounced good and there is such potential for it to flourish. Yet we need to read on because despite Jeremiah’s uncomfortable list of woes, his primary vocation was to call people back to a God who would remember their sins no more and who would establish a new covenant, written on their hearts.
Jeremiah, the heartbroken prophet, also spoke of the way God would offer him and the people another way, the way of justice and mercy and of faithfulness in difficult times.
Perhaps we can draw from such ancient wisdom, to see how in challenging times, there is another way. The Sky tells us wisdom even today, like the rainbow appears after the rain, blue skies appear after the storms. Each day the cloud formation is different, you will never see the same one again. When you look up you can see that change and a new creation tells us about God’s presence and character. In the reading from Psalm 19 the Sky becomes the way God speaks. What might the Sky be saying as gift in these times?
The Sky can remind us of what is transcendent, the beyond, the mysterious, the horizons beyond our reach. The Sky can also reveal patterns and tell us more than we know. I was taught the saying (you might also know) ‘red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning, red sky at night is the shepherd’s delight’ to know when it would a fine and hot day. When living in Warrandyte I learnt what many of our Indigenous brothers and sister know, that when there is a large flock of cockatoos it will rain heavily within the next two days.
The Sky is where we see the great lights – sun, moon, and stars, there is rhythm of dynamic activity. The Sky can be so many things as a witness to the hope that God has made the world, and us and loves it.
Yet we also see in the issues of our time how we need to look at the depletion of the ozone layer due to fossil fuel pollution and there are concerns of how we as humans influence the air we breathe. We realize we can be agents of harm or hope. What message is the Sky speaking to our children and grandchildren? What is the gift and challenges for us as a call to live as God’s children in our times?
So let us look to the skies to see the glory of God and our responsibilities around climate change action.
And as Matthew’s gospel chapter 6 says in the words of Jesus, “consider the birds of the air and how God provides for them.”
Let us look to the skies and remember God’s generous love, God’s promises in rainbows and God’s presence in the storms. Then with the rising of the sun and its going down we might continue to praise God and find opportunities to change our ways.
We might also be like the Sky, a living witness to God’s love, hope, and light.
To God be the glory in the church, in creation and in our lives.
Rev Lynette Dungan