FPC Sermon June 11, 2017 for Trinity Sunday Psalm 8
On this Trinity Sunday, we are called to celebrate this most complicated theological construct of the church. It’s a challenge because the Bible gives us relatively few clues. Rarely are the persons of the Trinity even mentioned together, even in the New Testament where we would most expect it.
We’re not here today to hear a treatise about what it means to have one God present in three persons. A lot of ink has been spilled on that subject since the dawn of Christianity, and it’s still being studied. Moreover, the church itself didn’t decide to celebrate the Trinity until the 14th century.
So what are we to celebrate on this Trinity Sunday? We’re here because our amazing God has brought us to this place today.
A God so mysterious as to transcend all our understanding and yet so down to earth that he came here and lived among us.
That’s why I chose as my sermon text this morning not the last verses of Matthew or of 2 Corinthians, in which the Trinity is exalted, but rather Psalm 8.
How often do we just mouth the words of our Psalms without really paying attention to them? I say one line and you say the next one, and when we’ve finished, have we really thought about the message?
My love of Psalm 8 came first from the beautiful anthem of Howard Hansen, “How Excellent Thy Name,” which I sang with the Occidental College Glee Clubs. We’ll take the next few minutes to listen to it.
This psalm celebrates the wonder of creation and our role in it. O Lord, our Sovereign Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
You and I in our time have seen a number of amazing things. Remember the first visible satellite crossing the night sky and the excitement it generated. Some of us may have seen shooting stars, comets, eclipses, and the northern lights, just some of the wonders visible to us at times.
This coming August 21, a huge event will take place: a total solar eclipse. Only people in the U.S. will be able to see it. It will be the first time since the founding of our country that this has happened.
The optimal location to view it, I’ve read, is Hopkinsville, Kentucky, at about 6:24 p.m. The eclipse there will block out 100% of the sun. If you’re in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, you’ll still get a pretty good view of it.
In California, where solar energy accounts for an estimated 40% of consumption, people are being alerted to the possibility that 2/3 of available clean energy might be lost during the eclipse, even though California will only be able to see a partial eclipse.
Here in East Jordan, according to the Solar Eclipse Calculator of the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Astronomical Applications Department, we’ll see the partial eclipse begin at 4:59 p.m., reach its maximum coverage at 6:20 p.m., and end at 7:39 p.m. 73.3 % of the sun will be blocked. It won’t be complete, but it will be pretty impressive.
Think about the writer of Psalm 8. He didn’t have any of these astronomical calculations at his fingertips. Yet, he had a profound understanding of who God was.
He knew for sure the majesty of a God who had created this earth and placed him in it.
You and I live in a world of rapidly-advancing scientific knowledge. We grasp for the concrete because we really want to be sure about everything.
But we’re still more or less at the same point as that Psalmist millennia ago. We look at the heavens, at the sky above, and ask the same question. What are human beings that God cares about us? Why, of all the possible creatures on all the planets in the solar system, did God create us as thinking, feeling human beings, with a sense of individuality and yet of community? And then, why did God become so humble as to come to earth for such ornery beings as you and me?
Yes, my friends, God is a mystery.
But at the same time, we know what God is like because God came to earth for us. The Trinity models for us humans the perfect love God has for us and that God wants us to have for each other.
Psalm 8 reminds each of us that God calls us as stewards of this magnificent earth. That’s what it means to have dominion. Everything has been given to us.
Think of the possibilities. Our Holy Trinity blesses us to do God’s work in the world. Moreover, God has given us powerful brains to address these pressing issues we face today, not just here in East Jordan but in our country and in our world.
Yes, we have great brains. We have better brains, it seems, than the other species on earth.
Yet, the Psalmist isn’t telling us that we’re better than others, that we’re superior to other species, that God favors us over people whom we view as different. Rather, says the Psalmist, we are chosen by God as stewards, as servants.
That’s why Jesus came. So we would understand God’s will for our lives.
Our forebear John Calvin thought “change for the better is the work of God in which we have the privilege of participating.”[i]
We Presbyterians believe “the Word of God is present and active in the world, making all things new in and through Jesus Christ,” as we read in Revelation 21: 5. Hebrews 10:23 gives us hope because “God is faithful and will see us through.” “We ourselves, as individuals and as the church, are being ever-transformed by this Word, even as we share its good news with the world.” God wants us, says Rigby, “to jump right into the work God is doing in this world: to discern what God is saying and to participate in this hope.”
You and I have a choice about how to be Christ’s people. We can nitpick each other to death, or we can join as the powerful force our Lord Jesus wants us to be, to unite in order to share with others the good news about Him.
It’s not enough to talk to people about Jesus, and I’m not convinced that too many of us do even that.
What others want to know is that and how Jesus has transformed us. Otherwise, why would anyone follow Him? As we move into the coming summer months, many us will be traveling, interacting with other people.
Let’s remember that we are Christ’s heart, and mind, and hands in this world. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth. Amen.
[i] Cynthia L. Rigby, “Reformed and always being reformed: Placing our hope in the changes God makes,” Presbyterians Today (November-December 2016), p. 6 is the source of all the quotations from Rigby.