Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. – Romans 1:20 (CEB)
In September, I bought a barometer. It is a simple analog wall-mounted one that I put on a wall in my kitchen. My children considered it one of the most pointless purchases I have ever made. It is true that it does not really give me any information that I need or that I could not find elsewhere. We are awash in weather data. I can look at an app on my phone and get a minute-by-minute forecast, current radar, and every weather measurement imaginable. An analog barometer does not really tell me very much. Yet each morning when I finish breakfast I look at the barometer to see what the pressure is and I set a dial to that spot. Then the next morning I can see how much it has changed since the day before, and then set the dial again to the new level.
Truthfully, I have gained no significant new insight on the weather from this practice. It can be interesting to see how much change there can be from day to day, though. More than that, it is a daily practice of checking in with the world around me. With so much technology and such busy schedules, we can spend our lives isolated from the rhythms and the sensations of God’s creation that surrounds us. We become dull to it through living in built environments with indoor climate control. The practice of noticing the barometric pressure each day is a way of being in touch with the reality of the physical world around me; it is a reminder that even the air around me is not static by dynamically and constantly changing and interacting with countless factors.
In our Wednesday evening discussion last week, looking at the ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation,” one of the questions someone asked is how to help people care about the environment. I mentioned that the very first step is opening ourselves up to the reality that we are part of it; we are an element of God’s creation and so created to be in relationship to it. We too easily lose track of it, and in doing so we lose track of our awareness of God’s being present to us within creation. It is a very small first step, especially with so many further steps needed beyond it, but it is a step that is frequently missed entirely. Small actions like keeping tabs on the barometric pressure can help to re-orient our focus to the ways we are surrounded by the presence of creation in ways that we cannot see, and thus also surrounded by God in ways that we cannot sense.