Trinity Sunday Sermon- June 7, 2020 Pastor John
Sermon for June 7, 2020
The weather had been hot and humid and so when I entered the office at Faith Lutheran the room was somewhat stuffy. There is an air-conditioner there but I decided to turn on the fan instead. The fan did its job and I was fine and did not sweat during the hours I was in the office. When I went to leave I glanced at the air-conditioner sticking out from the window. I was glad I did not turn it on because of what I saw. Was it on fire or ready to fall on the ground….neither of those catastrophes were the problem. What I saw was a maternity ward. A bird had made a nest on top of the air-conditioner and mom was present incubating the eggs. If I turned on the air-conditioner it may have disturbed the home of a soon-to-hatch family. I saw only the mom’s head but I think the church air-conditioner was the proud home of a robin family.
Spring is a time for new birth. A couple of weeks ago when I was leaving Faith Lutheran I saw another example of new life. A new-born fawn looked with fear at my car as I stopped to admire and wonder at such beauty. We all like to look at babies especially human ones! The Psalm for Trinity Sunday, Psalm 8, makes reference to little ones. This Psalm begins and ends with words of praise, shall we say “surround sounds” of praise for God’s work of creation. We heard “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.” One can ask how God can use a helpless infant to form a bulwark, a refuge, a bastion of strength, against enemies. Before we answer it is interesting to look at Psalms 3-7 which complain about foes. For example in Psalm 3 we read “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, ‘There is not help for you in God.’” In Psalm 7 the scene is quite graphic pleading ‘Lord if you do not save me from my pursuers they will like a lion tear me apart and drag me away.” So it sounds strange for Psalm 8 for God providing defense in babies. I picture a helpless infant in distress: a wet diaper or an empty tummy. What an infant does is cry out and the parent comes to rescue of the beloved baby. So when foes mock our faith, or if we fear we are pursued by enemies or one trouble after another, cry out for help. Like a loving mother God will hear the cry and hold us with the strength of her fierce love. Like a loving father God will come to our side with his protective and faithful reassurance that we are children of God. You may remember that Jesus himself quoted this portion of the Psalm after his entry into Jerusalem, the entry remembered on Palm Sunday. Jesus was at the Temple in Jerusalem and surrounded by children who kept singing “Hosanna to the Son of David”, praising Jesus as the promised Messiah. The Temple authorities, the chief priests and scholars heard what the children were singing and had a conniption fit. With faces red with anger they stormed up to Jesus and said “Do you hear what they are saying?”. Jesus, perhaps with a smile said “Yes, have you never read “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself.” When the professional religious specialists blew up with rage, Jesus preferred the song of children accepting their praise and insight for they recognized the Savior at work in the Temple healing the sick and proclaiming the good news of God.
Now Psalm 8 moved from the smallest baby to the vastness of the universe. We heard, “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?” One of the gifts of living in the North Woods is that on a clear night you can look up in the sky and wonder at the beauty of stars and planets but also feel quite small. We rejoiced recently at a successful rocket launch sending two astronauts to the International Space station. But space exploration is only just beginning. The first reading for today, Trinity Sunday, is Genesis chapter one. We heard of God creating through the power of God’s Word. God spoke and things came into being, and what was made was declared good. This ancient text was never meant to be a science text. Rather it is testimony of God the Creator. Nations around ancient Israel would worship the sun and the moon. But this text from Genesis is a call to praise the One Creator who has brought forth the marvel of the universe.
Sometimes we have heard, when we are troubled, that our worries do not matter compared to the vast expanse of creation and the passage of time. This may only underline our smallness and not be much of a comfort. But notice the Psalm said the Creator is mindful of human beings and cares for them. We mentioned prior psalms which were desperate prayers in the face of mocking and pursuing foes. What gave them both courage and hope was their faith, or shall we say the faithfulness of God. There was confidence in God’s righteousness “God is my shield who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge.” There was confidence with God’s faithfulness “I will, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.” There was confidence in God to supply hope, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord you have put gladness in my heart.” In the gospel for today Jesus told his disciples “I am with you always until the end of the age.” Jesus said “Don’t forget that”. In the New Testament reading for Trinity Sunday we heard the familiar words which often open worship, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.” We don’t have time to get into the original context except to say Paul wrote those words during a painful time. We are certainly in a painful time and there is no need to remind you of the fear from the covid-19 virus danger, and now we see protest marches calling us to think about racism in our country. We all need to kneel down and depend on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace of no condemnation and the gift of salvation. I read that the word ‘grace’ in the language of the New Testament is the root for the English word “caress”. We need the caress of grace to calm us down and see the precious worth of one another. We need the gift of the love of God, the very foundation of creation for God intends to rejoice in all God has made. We all need the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit who comes alongside to comfort us with the truth of Jesus who died for us all and lives in us to teach us not to hate but to love.
The New York Times tries to put a human face on the covid-19 crisis by profiling some of the medical folks who have died of the virus because they cared for patients. One was an Emergency room doctor named Frank Gabrin. On the night before he died emailed his colleagues to say “With a limited number of tools to fight this virus, I would like to remind us that we do have other tools at our disposal: decency, empathy, and compassion.” I was moved by his dying words. As a medical doctor he knew the importance of medicines and the development of a vaccine. But in laboratory of life what is needed to help fearful people if decency, empathy, and compassion.
The Psalm today spoke of human beings: “You have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.” In the reading from Genesis we heard similar words; “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, an over all the animals of the earth.” For the original writers of the text “image of God” meant to represent God. God is the Creator, or as Psalm 8 said, the Lord and Sovereign. How we live on this earth is to care for one another, to represent God. As human beings the Psalm made the astounding claim that we are a little lower than God, but this does not mean we are God. We represent God understanding what Scripture reveals of God, God who has pity on the weak and needy, and from oppression and violence God redeems them, and precious are their lives in God’s sight. To represent God we depend on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit so to be out in the world as human beings of decency, empathy, and compassion.
To be assigned dominion over God’s good creation does not mean to ‘dominate’ but to rule as God would. God does not want African-Americans to be oppressed by white people. God does not want us to ignore the plea, “Black Lives Matter” and keep the status quo of white privilege and supremacy. God would want us, I believe, to march with African Americans and other oppressed people and listen to them, for to listen is to learn to love. Old Testament scholar Nancy deClaisee-Walford commented with insight saying “Dominion is used most often in the Hebrew Bible to describe the rule of a king over the people. But God’s ideal for a monarch’s rule was not that of absolute and arbitrary dictatorial power. The role of the king in ancient Israel was to provide a place where people could live in peace and safety…be treated with justice and equity and be cared for if they were unable to care for themselves. The role of one having dominion: kindness, provision for good, peace well-being, plenty for all.” Then she pointed out the Hebrew word for dominion can also mean ‘wise-saying” as if to imply “You have made us wise over the works of your hands.” So it is wisdom to know just as God is mindful of human beings and cares for them, we are to be mindful and care for one another. This is the wisdom we need from our government, this is the wisdom we need in our churches, and this is the wisdom we need in our lives.”
Psalm 8 is a powerful word for today, especially to note that it begins and ends with praise for our Creator and Redeeming God: “O Lord, our Sovereign, now majestic is your name in all the earth!” Praise is the antidote for despair. Prayer, calling on the name of our Lord confronts fear with hope. God is ever at work providing defense from our foes; God’s defensive bulwark is his care for us, and God calls us to participate and serve, to be his representative of care and compassion. And so, be bold; be confident to ask God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to provide us with wisdom so we truly represent our loving God in our interactions with one another.