Hi everyone and welcome to our online service today. Even though we are not physically together at the moment Its great to know that we are all still meeting and praying together – that we are still All Saints Totley.
Today we are continuing our service series based on Ruth Valerio’s book “Saying Yes to Life” written for Lent 2020, which talks about the wonders of all God’s creation and our need to look after it. Over the last few weeks we have looked at what is described in the first 3 days of the creation story of Gensis – so far we have heard about Light and Energy (day 1), Water in Week 2 and last week Land and plants. This week Genesis moves us on to the creation of the Sun, the moon and the stars, which not only give us night and day but seasons and years as well.
So as we focus back on God’s amazing creation this morning lets start with the prayer below:
fount of all wisdom, crown of all knowledge;
give us eyes to see
and minds to understand your marvelous works,
that we may know you through your handiwork
and use your creations to your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
I often look around me – at scenery or wildlife – and think how amazing God’s creation is. Whether that is a nice view in the Peak district or a bird coming up close to me while I am working in the garden – I often get that sort of tingly feeling when you recognise just how amazing the natural world is.
And today we are talking about the objects that God has placed in our sky. –I get that same feeling I mentioned looking up at the stars, espsceially on a clear night when the whole sky seems filled – as it actually is. The vastness of space that is often hidden by light pollution from big cities these days is one of the most amazing sights. I would love to go to one of the remote places on Earth where you can see so many stars that they appear like clouds in the sky rather than just pinpricks of light.
Our own star – the Sun – is what sustains us, we would not be alive without it just as we would not be without water, and the distance from it at any time of year (caused by our rotation around the Sun in conjunction with the tilt of the Earth’s axis) is what causes us to have seasons. But that’s just our star.
There are billions of stars out there – if you ever thought what an amazing job God did on Earth just look up on a clear night and see what he did everywhere else. You might only see a few stars but when you think even the nearest one (Alpha Centauri A) is about 4.3 light years – so the light we see today left that star 4.3 years ago (and light travels at 186,000 miles per second meaning light could go all the way around the earth 7.5 times in one second) you get some idea of how far we are talking. Especially when light from our own sun takes 8 mins and 20 seconds to arrive with us as the distance is “only” about 93 million miles.
So the light from our star takes just over 8 mins to get to us, the light from the next nearest star takes 4.3 years to get here – and that’s just our next nearest.. if there are billions of stars then space is big, really big!
And, just while I’m on numbers… our earth as we know travels around the Sun every year, a journey of roughly 583 million miles. What is even more remarkable is that to do this we are currently travelling at about 66,000 miles per hour through space!
So I guess the point of all these numbers is to give us just some idea of the vastness of God’s creation and the beautiful complexity of it – everything works as it should because God made it that way.
As I mentioned earlier – we have Seasons because of the tilt angle that our planet spins on in relation to the sun -because of the tilt different parts of the Earth face the sun more directly at different times of the year – the more directly a place faces the sun the warmer it is and the more indirectly, the cooler – its this changing warmth and cool that gives us our seasons. But why do we need seasons?
Well, seasons give us periods for growing things – some crops need different climates at different times to grow whilst for others they grow in different seasons so we can enjoy different things at different times. Also think how seasons effect animals – both in migration and in hibernation.
Jeremiah 8 says “Even the stork in the sky
knows her appointed seasons,
and the dove, the swift and the thrush
observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
the requirements of the Lord.
In our Genesis passage today we find out WHY God made it all this way…
Genesis tells us that God had already created Light – “Let there be light” he said – and there was. This bit of the Genesis story, the 4th day, is more about the technicalities – it says “Let there be lights in the sky to separate the day from the night (the Sun and the Moon)… and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years. “ The objects in the sky give us a rhythm to our life by dividing our day, week , and year. And they provide a calendar that allows us to know not only when the seasons are but when all our religious festivals take place.
Apparently these words in Genesis probably were finalised while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. The Babylonians were a pagan people who believed in many Gods, they thought the Sun and stars were Gods – but this bit of Genesis makes it clear that God Is the creator of all things – “God set them in the sky “ And just in case we are tempted to believe in astrology (that deems our lives are controlled by the stars) or that horoscopes have anything useful to say it is also made clear “He also made the stars”
If you go back to some of those statistics I was mentioning – that there are billions of stars, more than we can possibly imagine – its easy to get lost in the incomprehensible size of what is out there – what God has made – and yet what the greatest wonder is, is that God did it all with us in mind – The sun in just the right place to give us life, the Sun and Moon to separate the day and night, the mechanism to give us seasons.
As the Psalmist says in Psalm 8:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
In other words “When I look at the massive skies – the amazing work you have done why do you bother with us tiny humans?” It is a startling reminder of just how big God’s love is for us…
Over the last few weeks we’ve been following the creation story and I do think we are being challenged to think about what it means to us that God is both the creator of everything as well as our redeemer through Christ.
As the song The Servant King from Graham Kendrick says “Come see his hands and his feet, the scars that speak of sacrifice. Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered.”
God built us, built an amazingly complex universe for us to live In and yet died on the cross simplyfor all of us -I am in awe of everything he built for us just as much as what he did for us by dying on the cross.
Ruth Valerio – who’s book we are following for this series on the environment, interviewed Lord Martin Rees,the Astonomer Royal for the Lent series she did last year and you can see the whole interview via the link in todays “Response” section.
They discuss the wonders of space and the urgency of climate change. In particular Lord Rees makes the point that this is the first century in history that one species, us, has the future of the planet in its hands. The fact that there are more of us than ever before combined with advances in technology have brought this about. There is no doubt for example that we as a species are currently consuming far more of the planets resources than it can generate to sustain us.
Lord Rees once said that there was a probability of extinction in the 21st century, but he has amended that to saying it will be a “bumpy ride.” And it does feel like we are having a “bumpy ride” at the moment with the coronavirus spreading across the world and affecting the lives of us all.
Lord Rees reminds us that the night sky is something we have in common with all the generations that have gone before us. We are the heirs of those generations. Our faith in God our Creator and Redeemer should make us more eager to care for this planet as we wonder at the creation around us. Our faith is a clue to this understanding. C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
The sun itself is pictured in Psalm 19 as a strong man getting up in the morning, breathing the air and going for his daily run: In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
So as we, a tiny spec in a vast expanse of space, look up and out at the vastness of creation, the enormity of the heavens and the perfection of their design – and we see clearly how they are purpose built just for us – its worth asking ourselves again…
As the Psalmist asked “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Why are we so special? Why did you do all of this for us? Why did you do all of this for me?
The only conclusion I can come to is that God must love us very very much. Amen
- Can you establish a rhythm of prayer that echoes the natural pattern of day and night?
Visit the Church of England Everyday Faith website page for some suggestions.
- Make time this evening (or on the next clear night) to gaze at the night sky. Pause to reflect on how everything and everyone is bound to one another and to God.
- Like the stars, so the Church’s year follows set patterns, with links to the seasons. Find out more on the Church of England website about Rogationtide, Lammas Day and Creationtide. How might reclaiming these ancient traditions help today’s churches and communities?
- Are there any outside lights you could switch off or lower at night? If your church has floodlighting, could it be switched off for a period of time?
- Reflect on these words, attributed to Martin Luther: “If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.”
Activities for Kids
- Start and end your day with a prayer – Jesus taught his followers to pray every day. When you wake up, ask God to bless your day. And thank God before you go to sleep.
- Gaze at the night sky – With a parent or carer, speak some time on the next clear night enjoying the wonder and beauty of the night sky.
- Praise God for the wonders of creation – Look up the words of a hymn, worship song or psalm that praises God for creation.
- Notice the changing season – What signs of spring/ summer do you notice today? Think of things you enjoy about the different seasons and festivals of the year and thank God for them.
- Find out why darkness is good – God declares both day and night to be good (Genesis 1) Research online why dark skies are so important to so many animals.
- Plant something – Plant some seeds or seedlings inside or outside. Notice how they respond to night and day and over the coming weeks.
Prayers of Intercession
In your groups today please pray whatever is on your heart:
The church in Sheffield and Totley in particular
Our Government and leaders around the world , that they would not only govern in response to current threats but that they would consider the future of our planet as they make decisions
For those we know who are sick or recently bereaved
The enormous suffering of people in India due to Covid
Make sure you tell God what you are thankful for!
we end with this prayer:
A prayer on the sun, moon and stars from the Philippines
Our Heavenly Father, as we look up to the vastness of the skies
The sun that you have made opens our eyes to a world lit in colour and clarity
And the moon and stars remind us of your faithfulness and steadfast presence
Amidst the seasons of darkness ane our community’s moments of uncertainty.
Lord Jesus, you have shown us how from beginning to end was the light of love
That as endless as the heavens above so is the grace that sustains all things
So with faith that the Spirit has wrought in us, we seek the care of every creature is to have
As we dream, hope, and labour for a future wrapped in the fullness of joy that your new creation brings.
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, Manilla, Philippines
From ‘Saying Yes to Life’ by Ruth Valerio, London, SPCK 2020
To end our service we say together:
help us to know your loving presence with us
through day and night,
and in every season of our lives.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”