Text: Psalm 19
How was your summer? Where were you in the summer of 2018? What did you experience? What did you remember most? Did anything impact you so deeply that you could no longer be the same person? I spent the most unforgettable summer in South Korea. I didn’t mind the 30 hour trip including the connecting flights and layovers. I was going to see my family and my home country for the first time in 5 years. I saw everything as if I saw it for the first time. Even a traditional market (similar to a farmer’s market in Canada) looked very interesting. The public transportation system was outstanding. High-Rise buildings looked intimidating as if they were boasting about the country’s fast economic growth. Hospitals and medical system were unbelievably fast, convenient and up to date. The country has changed dramatically since I left 12 years ago.
One of the changes that I didn’t notice before when I visited 5 years ago was the increasing number of visible minorities. Taking the subway in Seoul, I saw groups of foreign workers quite often. I saw women wearing the hijab whether in big cities or at tourist attractions. International marriages, migrant workers, foreign wives especially from Vietnam, and foreign students bring about changes in the fabric of South Korean society, long considered culturally and ethnically homogeneous.
Perhaps the most memorable experience, beside the time spent with my family, was the hot weather. It was very warm. It was actually so extremely hot that the government sent emergency alert messages frequently – to avoid outdoor activities, to hydrate enough and to watch out for any vulnerable people. The unbearable heat wave brought the hottest days of summer since reliable records began to be kept in the early 1900s. Three days after our arrival in Korea, we went to the nearest beach, famous for the mudflats and the abundant life in the mud flats – baby crabs, clams, snails, worms and starfish. We drove through the long and narrow country paths only to find out that the beach was closed. We didn’t know the reason for the closing, but it wasn’t even possible to walk along the beach anyway. Everything – the fish in the water, various life-forms in the muds, the birds in the air, the rice crops in the paddy, the livestock, and the farmers were all affected by the scorching heat.
This desert like beach was telling me that I was in the midst of climate change. I confess that I never took climate change as seriously as this summer. I was aware of the issue, and I did my best to walk gently on the earth, but it was still someone else’s problem, not mine. But this summer changed everything. Everything we care about – the water we drink, the air we breathe, the trees that give us shade, the wildlife we admire – has been and will continue to be affected by climate change. We may not feel the impact of climate change as much as those who live in coastal areas, or starving polar bears with increasing melting ice. But this is the single greatest threat to the earth, our home, the only home. This summer, no matter where we were, was appalling enough for us to take action to save our home, God’s household.
Perhaps, nature has always been calling us to worship, and calling us to take action, but we don’t always listen. Sallie McFague, a theologian explains the difference between us and the rest of the creation. “We must undergo the deepest of all conversions, the conversion from egocentricism to theocentrism, a conversion to what we truly are: reflections of God, as is everything in creation. The only difference between us and the rest of creation is that the others reflect God, tell of God, simply by being, whereas we must will that it be so. We must desire to be what we truly are—made in the image of God, and thus able to live justly and sustainably on earth with all other creatures.”
The palmist did listen and respond with this powerful hymn.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
And the following verses remind us of the summer of 2018. “In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from the heat.”
Can Psalm 19 give us an answer to mend the wounds of creation, and the wisdom to restore the wholeness of creation? I think there is a hope for our future if we are willing to listen, and respect the sacredness in all of God’s creation.
McFague, Sallie. A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming (p. 161). National Book Network – A. Kindle Edition.