Our newly revived Bible Study is starting over with Genesis. Tomorrow evening, we will read through Abraham’s faith journey. We will have to imagine the night sky full of starts, as he would have seen it, as God made extravagant promises pulled from the overflow of creative Spirit.
The first time I saw stars in the multitude that must have illustrated God’s covenant with Abraham, I was at a weekend retreat with other teenagers of a church other than my own, decades ago in the Welsh countryside, outside and out of place, when I found myself surrounded by a sky full of stardust. I was already awestruck, when I saw a shooting star – a meteor – generously display itself across the night. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Last week, we studied the stories of Creation. Reading chapter one, we reminded ourselves of the putative Priestly writer’s penchant for order: night separated from the day, land from the ocean, creatures neatly categorized by their creeping, crawling, or flight. There was evening, and there was morning.
We read the stories of the Flood and its remediation, and the way in which God resolved, unilaterally, never again to blot out breath from the earth.
We have not lived well into the image of that great Creator. We have suppressed the breath of our own kind, directly by violence, and indirectly by violation. We have caused the extinction of countless of our fellow creatures, aspiring and respiring, and we show no sign of curbing our chaotic activity. Storms surge and overwhelm us once more. Scientists and prophets alike are proclaiming the disaster that our sin of selfishness has brought upon us, our greed, our consumption.
Even now, regulations to protect the environment at being rolled back, as though short-term profit matters more than the long-term survival of the planet, the garden into which God, in the old stories, placed us with such delight. A child can see that this is madness: chaos of the first order. The ground itself despairs: a glacier has died.
Light pollution is one visible symptom of our undoing of the order of Creation. The separation of day and night is countered by round-the-clock activity and artificial illumination. We refuse to submit ourselves to the bounds that God set for us. We have rebelled from the beginning.
This Tuesday, at Bible Study, we will not see the stars. But this past weekend, for a brief moment, I glimpsed hope. I was on an island within sight of the lights of Cedar Point. Even so, as I crossed a dimly lit campground, I looked up and thought, “After all, even with this much light pollution, there are stars.”
At that moment, a meteor flashed across the sky, and I was once more floored by the generous playfulness, the never-ending hopefulness, the hopeless love that God has yet for this world.
In the old stories, God promised never again to seek to undo God’s creation. It is time for us to take the same pledge. The odds of recovery are against us; but God’s mercy endures forever, so we can try. We can keep the faith.
We can start small, following the advice of our more frugal parents: Turn out the lights.
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio. She blogs at over the water: rosalindhughes.com and is a contributing editor to the Episcopal Cafe. Rosalind is a chapter author in the RevGalBlogPals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, and her own first book, A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing is due out from Upper Room Books in April 2020.
Photo credit: Gareth Hughes: Wadi Rum, Jordan, October 2018
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