Trinity Sunday A

June 09, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 28:16-20

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary +

    Genesis 1:1-2:4a

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • The Lectionary Psalms

    Psalm 8

    Author: Doug Bratt

    Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider

    Psalm 8’s poet has few pretensions.  When he stares up at the night sky he recognizes how puny people at least seem to be within the grand scheme of God’s creation.  “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place,” he breathlessly sings, “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

    Yet imagine how the poet might have felt if she’d been able to spend even just ten minutes peering through a modern telescope.  The mere sight of pinpricks of light twinkling in the sky overjoyed the psalmist.  Telescopes, however, don’t just show us those “pinpricks” in amazing detail; they also give us close-up pictures of Venus and Jupiter, of Saturn and Mars.  Just a few years ago, in fact, the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn sent its first spectacular pictures of the planet’s rings of rock and ice back to earth.  The rings’ scalloped edges, straw-like textures and rippling waves, those works of God’s “fingers,” stunned scientists.

    You don’t have to travel light years, however, to glimpse some of God’s creation’s wonders.  Scientists tell us that there are more living organisms on just the skin of a human being than there are human beings on the earth’s surface.  Arctic terns fly more than a 10,000 mile round trip each year between their winter homes in the Antarctic and their summer home in Asia.

    On both big and tiny levels, God’s creation teems with life.  God’s creation, writes Scott Hoezee, is abuzz with complexity, movement and music.  It is, in fact, so enormous and magnificent that some wonder how the psalmist can claim that God has a special place in it for tiny creatures like human beings.

    Psalm 8’s praise is directed to God about God’s creation.  Old Testament Israel was deeply interested in that creation.  In fact, she thought of a part of her salvation as being a fertile chunk of that creation, of a good land flowing with milk and honey.  God, in fact, repeatedly ties God’s Old Testament plans and promises to creational things like soil and water, flocks and herds, wine and wheat.

    Creation matters to God’s children.  After all, as passages like Psalm 8 remind us, it matters to our heavenly Father.  We care for that creation because God lovingly made it and then called us to care for it almost right from the beginning of measured time.  However, we also care for what God made because it’s as if so much of God’s creation has, as John Calvin wrote, God’s fingerprints all over it.  The “heavens,” that is things like the moon and the stars, as well as whales and Arctic terns, somehow declare God’s glory.

    Few things arouse more passion in Christians than debates about the clarity of the evidence for God’s work within creation.  Those who preach and teach Psalm 8 aren’t going to settle this debate.  But perhaps we can help worshipers see that at least those whom God has given eyes of faith can see God’s fingerprints in creation’s complexity.  In other words, God’s children can glimpse the majesty of God’s name in what God has created.

    So, for instance, we can see God’s handiwork in things like cicadas’ beady red eyes and massive clusters of the stars in space.  Whether we peer through a microscope or a telescope, Psalm 8 suggests it helps you and me catch glimpses of God’s glory.  Whether you and I watch a tiny fawn test out its wobbly legs or study the wondrous design of a human hand, we catch glimpses of God’s glory.

    However, Psalm 8 also addresses humanity’s place in that glorious creation.  This psalm reminds us that our significance is disproportionate to our size relative to the rest of God’s creation.  It, in fact, reminds us of the central place and role God gives people in the creation God both lovingly made and for which God continues to care.

    So perhaps if anything outstrips God’s glory that we see in God’s immense creation, it’s the fact that relatively tiny people really do matter to God.  Verse 4 insists that even though God has this vast creation to care for, God pays special attention to you and me.  Even though parts of God’s creation are far, far, far larger, God “cares for” people like us.  In fact, Jesus, perhaps hyperbolically, insists that God even knows how many hairs we have on our heads.

    God has, as verse 5 insists, crowned people “with glory and honor.”  In fact, Psalm 8 insists God created people to be only slightly inferior to the angels and, shockingly, even to God.  We see part of that vital importance in the role that God assigns you and me in God’s creation.  Genesis tells us that near the beginning of measured time, God created us in God’s image.  Part of that image-bearing means caring for this creation, justly ruling it on behalf of the One who created us in God’s image.

    The psalmist seems to suggest that our rule over God’s creation extends especially to animals, both domesticated and wild.  After all, he mentions our rule over “flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and fish of the sea.”  Yet we must confess that we’ve not always ruled over those creatures as God does.  Since we can almost see God’s fingerprints all over what God makes, we might say you and I have badly smudged some of those prints.

    After all, we’ve at least helped extinguish countless numbers of species that God created.   We’ve spilled oil that has killed the fish that swim the paths of the sea.  We’ve harmed and destroyed things like nesting grounds for various “birds of the air.”  We’ve also, however, razed and destroyed large tracts of forests that God created.  We’ve paved over streams and drained swamps.

    Psalm 8 tells us that God has put everything under our feet.  Sometimes, however, we’ve behaved as though that gives us permission to treat what God made as our personal doormat.  We’ve almost acted as if passages like this psalm give us permission to wreck what God, anthropomorphically speaking, created with God’s fingers.

    When God gives you and me tasks, God calls us to do them in ways that imitate God.  So when we, for instance, care for the vulnerable members of society, we imitate God’s attention to them.  No one, however, would be foolish enough to claim that we care for vulnerable people like widows and orphans by exploiting them.  In a similar way, we don’t rule God’s good creation by somehow ripping it to shreds and polluting it.  We don’t rule God’s creation by wantonly extinguishing God’s handiwork that is the shocking variety of species of plants and animals God created.

    Psalm 8 doesn’t imply that we may not enjoy the good things God put in God’s creation.  It doesn’t seem to suggest, for instance, that we may not use wood for building homes, oil for running cars or water for fishing.  Psalm 8 does imply, however, that we use God’s creation with a watchful eye.  As we enjoy that creation, we turn a grateful eye to God for giving it to us.  However, we also turn a watchful eye to that creation to ensure that we don’t promiscuously scar or ruin it.

    In a world scarred by sin, this requires careful thought and hard work.  Yet the Bible clearly assumes that it’s possible to care for and even use creation’s fruits while still keeping it God’s creation.  It is possible to care for God’s creation in such a way that the Creator’s glory remains on display for all to see.

    Illustration Idea

    A funny, albeit rather crude song from the musical Les Miserables offers an avenue into preaching and teaching this psalm.  Cosette, a young orphan who lodges with innkeepers named the Thenardiers, is one of its central characters.  Mr. Thenardier, who with his wife treats her horribly, is comically pompous.  He sings a memorable song in which he calls himself “master of the house . . . servant to the poor, butler to the great, comforter, philosopher, and lifelong mate!  Everybody’s boon companion, gives ‘em everything he’s got.”

    Mr. Thenardier thinks of himself as the master of his inn and family, as well as everyone’s friend.  His wife, however, knows better.  She, after all, essentially runs the inn.  So Mrs. Thenardier sings a song that parodies her husband’s pomposity.  She sings, “’Master of the house?’  Isn’t worth me spit!” and a few other things that don’t make for very edifying sermon material.

    While Mr. Thenardier’s lyrical pomposity is hilarious, it can also be a bit unnerving.  After all, we see so much of him in ourselves.  Who of us, after all, doesn’t at least quietly suspect that we’re rulers over our various domains?

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    2 Corinthians 13:11-13

    Author: Stan Mast