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Psalm 8

In our world today, we have often lost a sense of wonder or mystery. The answer to nearly every question is available at our fingertips. Our cell phones contain a link to a world of information that was incomprehensible to those living in generations before ours. Science and reason have now become the “gods” of our modern world. Yet with all these “answers,” maybe we could use a little more mystery in our lives.

On this Trinity Sunday, the enigma that is the Trinity can aid us in recovering some of this sense of wonder. The riddle of the Three-in-One, Triune God has left numerous theologians and scholars perplexed and confused. Despite the past 2,000 years of church history and tradition, no one has been able to adequately describe the Trinity. Physics cannot explain it, Logic cannot define it, and Reason cannot express it. Metaphors fall short and analogies only get us so far.

Our psalm for this week, Psalm 8, also helps to provide us with some of that awe and wonder we are so desperately missing. In a time before telescopes and space travel, the created world was largely a mystery to humankind. Yet even the few stars and planets visible to the naked human eye were enough for the psalmist to proclaim,

“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?” (vv. 3-4)

With the advancement of technology and the satellite and telescopic images now available to us, our sense of wonder and awe at the universe should only increase! If you ever begin to doubt the magnificence or power of our Creator God, go find one of those videos on YouTube that shows how small Planet Earth is in comparison to the rest of the universe.

When I watch a video like that, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed. I experience somewhat of an “existential anxiety” that makes me want to stop watching and turn off the video, closing my eyes to the vastness that is our universe. When I reflect on the fact that our galaxy is just one of a hundred billion galaxies, each with millions of suns, and planets, and solar systems, I am soon reminded that our Lord God is indeed all-powerful and glorious. In thinking about all that is contained in outer space, my missing sense of wonder is quickly reestablished. Likewise, this psalm helps to remind us of God’s majesty and creativity, and instills in us once again that profound sense of mystery.

There is a second mystery contained in this psalm. Despite our lowly physical presence and insignificance among a universe of other planets, stars, and galaxies, the psalmist declares, “Yet you have made [mortals] a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (v. 5). Even though our lives are but a breath of air or a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4), a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14), God has established humanity as the pinnacle of the created order. God has given us dominion over all of creation and has put all things under our feet: “all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas” (vv. 7-8).

This type of language is meant to immediately draw the reader back to the creation narratives in the first two chapters of Genesis (the first of which is the Old Testament lectionary lesson for this week). There, God instructs humankind to, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).