2 December 2019

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (v. 1)


On 24 May 1844, Samuel Morse sent his first coded message over the line from Washington DC to Baltimore. The text of the message, taken from the King James’ Bible version of Numbers 23:23, asked the question “What hath God wrought?” Today’s reading from Psalm 8 seems as if to answer the question.

“O Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens …” (v. 1)

The 1977 film Power of Ten depicts a couple having a picnic in a park in Chicago. The camera zooms out from the couple, in steps of a power of ten, until it depicts the widest scan of the universe. The camera then zooms back, in steps of powers of ten, stopping when it shows the double helix of the couple’s DNA.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (v. 3-4)

The insignificance of humanity, amid the vastness of the universe, is established by the Psalmist. Nevertheless, the Psalm continues to announce that we have been made a little lower than God and have been give dominion over creation (verses 5-6).

Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, has set off an immense wave of challenge about the effect of human activity on the health of the planet. It is one thing for the Psalmist to remind us of our insignificance amid the vastness of the universe but being given dominion over creation gives us immense power for good and ill. Suddenly, through the actions of a schoolgirl, our care for the planet is becoming an agenda item.

Maggi Dawn’s hymn reminds us of the Advent theme of looking for the light amid darkness. Her hymn reflects upon the darkness of the wider world and upon the personal darkness in which people find themselves. The climax of the hymn is the announcement of our Advent message, the coming of the Holy Child, Emmanuel, God with us, into the broken world as a force for hope and health and healing. “Come in your glory, take your place … O come, Lord Jesus, come.” (Singing The Faith 173 refrain)


To Ponder:

  • Have you, or has someone known to you, been involved in recent activism highlighting climate change or environmental issues? Have you participated in the “climate strikes” or the civil disobedience activities of Extinction Rebellion? How does your faith fuel your engagement in this movement?
  • Are you familiar with the Methodist Church’s work on these issues and what more can be done to bring the matters to wider attention? Read about the Methodist Church’s work in this area.


Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Rev Dr Adrian Burdon is Superintendent Minister of the Shaw & Royton Circuit in the Manchester & Stockport District. Adrian has been a presbyter since 1988 and, in addition to urban Lancashire, has worked on the Fylde Coast, in Leeds City Centre, the North East of England and as a mission partner in the South Pacific. Adrian is Chair of the CTBI Writing group, which writes material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and serves on the liturgical subcommittee of the Methodist Church.

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