The Sun and the Moon – Genesis 1: 14-19 – Sermon

The Sun and the Moon

October 3, 2021 – Grace Lutheran Church

Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes

Genesis 1:14-19

14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so.

16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.

17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,

18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.


May the peace of Christ be with you all. I want to thank Pastor Cover for this invitation and Pastor Haulke for sending me the picture and making the art work we are using today. It is always an honor to preach here, the church of my family.  Let me start by saying that our church and pastor Cover are featured in my new book “Praying With Every Heart.” Pastor Cover wrote one of the chapters for the book from the experiences we lived here in the church. Do you remember the ReLent Practice?

This practice became this chapter and I hope it will inspire other church communities to do the same. It is such a deep honor to have Pastor Cover in the book. Thank you Pastor Cover!

In the Canticle to the Sun, Saint Francis of Assisi calls the Sun and the Moon “Brother Sun and sister Moon,” and praises air, wind, fire and water. The canticle prayer goes like this:

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

The whole creation is closer to us than we imagine. The natural world is not something out there but rather a fundamental part of who we are. The universes, the galaxies, the stars, the forests, the rivers, the animals are all part of this one belonging! In our text today, we continue to be in awe with God’s creation where light and darkness are both blessings and wonders for us to experience, to live with.


From darkness to light, back to darkness and to light again! That is the journey of life. Life everywhere, where everything is sentient, everything is blessed, everything belongs to God.

Since God breathed on humans and animals and the whole earth, all the atmosphere has God’s breath, there is no separation between God the creator and God the creation.

We are all intertwined, interconnected, interrelated. Creation exults and sings God’s life. God is breathed in every breath all around the earth, from humans to trees, from coral reefs to plants. Air, fire, earth and water. All there is, has God’s breath as an imprinted mark of love, generosity and life everlasting.


I love that today we are talking about the Sun and the Moon, day and night, light and darkness.


When I look at the skies at night, I cannot help but feel my heart slowing down and expanding, being filled with wonder. The stars. The infinite. So much we don’t know. The awe of being alive and be able to experience it. What a gift!


When I look down, I am marveled by what I see too. My feet on the ground. The earth holding me. From the smallness of living things, the topsoil, the underworld. Everything is a composition of wonders to keep me alive!  All so fully alive!


The deep contrast and incredible relation between down here and up there, the expansiveness of life, all the living beings, the beginning our life, our life now, our end… all I can do is to say ahhh ohhhh!


While I am afraid that we are destroying the earth and climate disasters will only grow, I try to keep myself filled with wonder and awe with God’s creation!


To know the wonders of the skies is to dive into a black hole filled with light, a light so bright it creates darkness. Howard Thurman calls it a luminous darkness. And I cannot stop asking: “My God, how is this all even possible?”


When we start to learn about the cosmos in which we live, the vastness of it all is so great that I don’t have what it takes to understand it. We start to realize that everything that exist including all of us, comes from the stars. It was the astronomer Carl Sagan who famously said  “we are the dust of stars.” Dust of stars… Isn’t this incredible?


So let me ask you this: look at your body right now.

Look at your body and say to yourself “I am the dust of stars.”

Look at your arms and say to yourself “I am the dust of stars.”

Look at your hands, and say to yourself “I am the dust of stars.”

The stars were our first home. And the stars were always in the heart of God. God has a heart filled with starts of all kinds, shapes, sizes, colors and brightness. God is the brightest Star from which every single star was born. And imagine this: There are approximately 200 billion trillion stars only in the universe! I don’t understand that…

But how do we know that? Astronomers, astrophysicists, astrobiologists, they all tells us about the beginning of life. Through science, they help us find our origins.

Every religion has a myth, every people has a story that explains the beginning of life. Each story more fascinating than the other. For us Christians, all we need to know is that our origin is in God, whatever name one might give to it: chaos, being, big bang and so on.


Those astronomers, astrophysicists, astrobiologists, they say everything started almost about 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang, the most acceptable scientific theory of the origin of the universes. And again my friends, I hope you don’t hang up on an adversarial mode against scientists  because they are atheists or because they don’t follow God’s precepts.


We Christians have learned with the mystics, with Saint Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Berry, Jessica Moerman, West Lafayette, Mary Schweitzer, Mary Jane Rubestein  and many others that faith and science can co-exist. As I continue, I hope you will see that I am not denying God’s creation but rather trying to make it more fascinating! If that is even possible.


There was a time when an extremely hot “soup” of quarks and gluons — subatomic particles that became the building blocks of protons and neutrons that when exploded, created the planets, stars, galaxies and universes we know now. We live amidst these immensities, in a planet that is neither too small nor too big, a planet called earth that lives among other planets and billions of stars.

Our galaxy is called Milky Way. The Milk Way is only one galaxy within an universe that lives amidst other galaxies within many other universes. I don’t even know how to think in terms of billions of galaxies, billions of planets and billions of stars. It is too billion big!

However, within our galaxy, we have the Sun and 8 planets circling around it. What we know now was contested for a long time.


The Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who was born 340 yeas before Christ, thought that the earth was the central planet on the sky and everything, including the Sun and the Moon rotated around the earth. That thought became a belief for Christians. It made sense to have the earth as the center of the universe since God sent God’s only son to live here.


However,  a series of astronomers challenged that idea. It started with Nicolas Copernicus who first said that the earth revolved around the sun and not the sun that revolved around the earth.


Giordano Bruno came after and said that the universe had no center and there were other planets in the universe rotating around the sun. Giordano Bruno was burned by the church in a public square in Rome.


A little later, Galileo Galilei developed this theory further saying that the Earth was not flat but round, the earth rotated daily around the sun.

The church still couldn’t accept the Heliocentrism, or the sun at the center of the universe. Galileo Galilei had to deny everything he had claimed so he wouldn’t be killed. The Catholic Church apologized to Galileo Galilei in 1992 with Pope John Paul II.


Later on, the astronomer Kepler, using a telescope, finally proved that the earth revolved around the sun.


As you can see, the Sun has been in a hot dispute, so to speak, between the church and scientists. The positionality of the Sun and the moon as it relates to the earth was key to understand the Cosmos and how God relates with this Cosmos, in this Cosmos.


All we know is that the Sun is fundamental to our ways of living today.


In the Northern Hemisphere we have dates that mark the various relations between the earth and the sun. The equinoxes and solstices mark our seasons by the amount and the length of light of the Sun on earth.


So, in the Northern Hemisphere you have:

  • Vernal equinox(about March 21): day and night of equal length, marking the start of spring
  • Summer solstice (June 20 or 21): longest day of the year, marking the start of summer
  • Autumnal equinox(about September 23): day and night of equal length, marking the start of autumn
  • Winter solstice (December 21 or 22): shortest day of the year, marking the start of winter


The sun is always there in the morning announcing the beginning of a new day, a new time, a new life.


The French Algerian writer Albert Camus said that the sun at midday is life’s full awareness.


At sunset, the sun reminds us of the end, of life going away. That is why we have this nostalgic feeling at the end of the day when the sun is leaving us. On the beaches of Rio, we have the tradition of applauding the sun’s setting, the finale of the day’s stage. Ah the Sun… this flaming ball of fire who gives us light and warmth. Without the Sun we wouldn’t be able to live.


But let us now talk briefly about our precious moon. 


Our galaxy, the Milky Way, was formed 4.5 billion years ago. Since its beginning, the earth was under constant asteroid bombardment. The largest crater from an asteroid that hit the earth about 50 thousand years ago is called the Berringer Meteor Crater and is on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona. Its hole has over 1.2 mile of extension and 570-feet deep. However, one of the worst meteors that crashed the earth happened 65 thousand years ago and destroyed all the dinosaurs and 60% of life on earth. It fell at the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.


Nonetheless, the most fascinating meteor crash, as scientists say, comes from a much larger impact of an asteroid on earth that might have been the cause of the creation of the moon. According to this most accepted theory, 4.5 billion years ago, a planet called Theia, about the same size of planet Mars, crashed into the earth. In this impact, Theia was completely disintegrated. However, when Theia hit the earth, a huge piece of the  earth was ripped apart and that part formed what we now call the Moon. If that is true, the Moon is nothing else than a child of the Earth. Isn’t this fascinating?


Ah the Moon… The moon doesn’t have its own light but influences life on earth in so many ways. It influences the seas, it influences the topsoil and crops. Fishers and farmers plan their fish season and their crops around the cycles of the Moon. Lunar power comes from gravity and light changes. “Lions and other predators attack more during the week after a full moon.”


Astrology, a form of knowledge that existed for millennia and was once the main form of knowledge before European modernity, carried a lot of wisdom in organizing our lives within the connections, traces and movements of the planets within the universe. When we are born, the position of the moon and the Sun and other stars explain something about the ways we live.


The Moon has been the subject of many stories. Love stories, changes of energies and transformations of beings, scary and horror stories.


We used to be guided by the elements of nature, by the Sun and by the Moon. Now, we are guided by the clock of capitalism and the need to work harder and harder.


As we can see, in just those lines, the author of Genesis composes a vas story that the writers of the story didn’t know. But they did know the wonders of it all!


But there is something else that the text exposes. The natural relation of the Sun with the day and the Moon with the night.


These obvious relations were later associated with cultures that related light and darkness with good and bad energies and presences. The day is the safest time of the day. During the day we see, we have clearer senses, we are more aware. However, the night is the place of fear, a time where we are out of control, where monsters and spirits might show up. There are things that we can easily go through during the day but cannot during the night.


I remember when I was growing up in Brazil. I feared darkness so much. My best nights happened when my father would watch tv and I could see the light under the door. The nights he went to bed earlier, I needed to sing a hymn to make myself sleep because it was all darkness.


Darkness always scared me.  When we become parents, I guess we try to give to our kids what we have not received from our parents. So every night I pray with Ike and in our prayer we both say: “Give us a good night of sleep. We are not afraid of the night, we are not afraid of the dark.” And then I realize that by praying this prayer with him, I am hoping to learn myself how not to be afraid of the dark.



But the worst part of this duality between light and darkness is that we have learned to associate darkness with people with dark skin. In our racist society, we tend to associate everything that is bad, fearful, uncontrolled, monstrous, filled with disease and strange to black people and people of color.


Not long ago a white woman was running in the Central Park and a black man was doing his exercises. She thought he was coming after her and she start screaming and immediately called the police. The man had no idea what was happening. Darkness, black people, fear, attack.


We must learn not to fear darkness as we must learn not to associate darkness with people of color. We are all light and darkness. There are many blessings in darkness. The story of creation attests to the fact that everything was created out of darkness! So darkness has everything in it! All life and life possible! So life has its fulness in darkness!

Milky Way with alone old crooked tree on the hill. Colorful night landscape with bright milky way, starry sky and tree in summer. Space background. Amazing astrophotography. Beautiful universe. Travel

Howard Thurman talked about a luminous darkness. A luminous darkness that lives in God and lives within ourselves too. In God, light is darkness and darkness is light. In both forms of luminosities, light or darkness, we are in God!


During the day we can call on God’s name and during the night we can also call on God’s name. We belong to God during the day and we also belong to God during the night. As we live in light and darkness, we always live in God, who is our light, who is our darkness.


So I would like to ask you that during this week, you salute the sun when you wake up in the morning and you salute the Moon before you go to bed. They are both parts of you. The Sun and the Moon are part of our bodies. Both the Sun and the Moon and ourselves are all star dust.  We celebrate them.


How wonder-ful is this God who is  Sun and Moon, light and darkness. And we live in God, blessed by the Sun and blessed by the Moon.


So I will finish with the hope that we can understand better the wonder Saint Francis had in his heart when he sang and prayed this prayer:


Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.


May God, the Sun and God the Moon bless us all, now during the day, and later during the night. Amen.