Welcome and call to worship
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.
Today is Trinity Sunday, and as we join together wherever we are, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now, and for evermore.
Prayers of adoration and confession
God almighty, we praise and adore you:
God the Father,
You are forever beyond our grasp, yet by love always within our reach – and we approach you with confidence.
God the Son,
You are forever ahead of us in wisdom and love, yet by love always beside us - and we approach you with eagerness.
God the Holy Spirit,
You are forever larger than the universe, yet by love living within our hearts - and we approach you with delight and joy.
To your praise and glory: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God to be ever loved, adored and served!
As we praise God, we need to examine our own lives, our own hearts, and confess our need for forgiveness.
So let us pray:
Father, loving creator and sustainer of all things: Forgive us when we take you for granted or turn our backs on you,
Christ Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man: Forgive us when we neglect you or follow you only half-heartedly,
Holy Spirit, Source of birth and rebirth, nurturer of the family of God: Forgive us when we reject your friendship to seek favour with the world,
Most loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, gather your wandering people back to your side, and forgive us our many sins. Reinforce within us the desire to do your will, as you bring nearer the fulfilment of your new creation.
Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Assurance of forgiveness
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
you have confessed your sins to God.
Therefore, in the name of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
I assure you that you are forgiven.
You are set free from your sins by the power of Christ,
who raises you up to new life in the Spirit.
To the only God our Saviour,
who so graciously forgives us and sets us free,
be glory, majesty, power and authority,
before all ages, now and for evermore.
The Nicene Creed
Although it’s gone out of fashion in recent years, the reciting of creeds - statements of what we believe – has been a regular part of Christian worship services. In the Uniting Church, the Apostles’ Creed is used in our Baptism and Confirmation. The Apostles’ Creed begins ‘I believe…’ but the Nicene creed, begins ‘We believe’ and it was traditionally especially used in services of Holy Communion.
The Nicene Creed, was first established in the fourth century, is the most ecumenical of the creeds: Not only does the Uniting Church in Australia affirm it, but so do Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and most other Protestant churches. The Eastern Orthodox churches, do too, but they state that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father, not from the Father and the Son as the western churches generally affirm.
I think it is a good thing say from time to time, to remind ourselves of those beliefs that bind us together not only with each other but with the wider church as well.
Let’s say it now… what do we believe?
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Oh Lord, we pray for our nation Australia, and the world, as it slowly recovers from the COVID crisis. And as it slowly recovers down on the lockdown effects on the people. We pray for the leaders of our country, for wisdom and discernment in their decisions. We pray that they will also have compassion towards the needy. We pray for our whole country, for the restoration of property and the restoration of hearts and minds following our summer bushfires.
Currently, we pray for all of those who are out of work or who have insecure employment. May they find relief and peace. We pray for spiritual revival in our land. More than ever, we need this now, that more people come to know you as Lord, and trust you and put their faith in you.
Lord, we also like to pray for the United States, for the terrible unrest and the suffering and the turmoil that we see on the news. It gives us great grief to hear about this and we are greatly troubled by what we see. We pray for these people. We pray especially for good leadership. And we pray for the hearts and minds of those people in leadership to be turned in the direction of peace and reconciliation and healing.
We pray for our Joint Nominating Committee at Carlingford Uniting Church as they discern the unique needs of our church. Be with them, Lord. And drawing closer to home, we pray for those having treatment. We pray for Bronwyn. Give her healing and peace and comfort. And we pray for John. We pray you would do the same for him. Give him patience and peace and comfort in his heart and heal him. We also pray for all those who are in care or shut-in. We think of Audrey, we think of Luke, we think of May, Pat and Sheila. Be with them and strengthen them, Lord. And we pray for ourselves that we would increasingly put our trust in you and not in ourselves, that our faith would increase, and that we could see the wider picture and start seeing you working in the world. We pray all these things in your name. Amen.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your hands,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Have you heard the lesser known Sherlock Holmes story: the Mystery of Nottingham Forest?
Well, it seems life in London at 221B Baker Street had become too hectic for Holmes and Watson, and they went on a camping trip to Nottingham Forest to get away from it all. They set up camp, and had a pleasant dinner by the campfire. They weren’t interrupted by any unexpected callers with mysteries to solve, and so they turned in for night quite early.
In the middle of the night, Watson woke up, and looked across to Holmes, lying in his sleeping bag, puffing on his pipe, staring intently upward.
“I say, Holmes, what the devil are you up to?” asked Watson.
“Watson, look at the sky and tell me what you see?”
Watson looked up: “I see thousands of stars”
And Holmes said, “And what do you deduce from that?”
“Well, Holmes, if there are thousands of stars, and if there really are other star systems, then it is quite likely that there are some Earth-like planets out there, and if there is such a planet, there may exist life as well.”
Holmes said nothing, shook his head, and kept puffing on his pipe.
So Watson asked him “Why, Holmes, what do you deduce from that?”
“Well, Watson, from the starry sky, I deduce that someone has stolen our blasted tent!”
Well, David, King David, the author of today’s psalm didn’t let a tent block his view of the starry sky.
The starry sky is impressive. Glorious.
A couple of years ago, I was doing lots of office demolition and fitout work, and that generally took place outside ‘normal office hours’. So, after the office workers had gone home for the day, we went to work. That way, we didn’t disturb the office workers, and once the cleaners had finished, we got a free run of the lifts.
It meant though that I was often getting home very, very late at night – or very, very early in the morning. The great thing though, was that my work started and finished at my boss’s house – which was three doors away from home. My commute was about a minute. But as I walked down the driveway from Craig’s house to ours, there was an opening in the canopy of trees, and on clear nights I looked up and saw the stars. Often I stopped for a minute and just gazed up at the stars. Of course, the night sky that I could see at home has got nothing on the night sky we see out in the country – there’s too much light pollution in the suburbs. I remember the first time Beth and I went camping – we camped out near Kanangra Walls, and it was a moonless night – and after our dinner we walked away from the campfire and looked up at the sky…. Wow… Remember the words of Banjo Patterson in the Man from Snowy River “…the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky”.
Certainly, we know a lot more about the stars today than David did. Yet, the more we know, the more we should be amazed. The distances involved. The vastness of space.
When we are in awe of creation—whether it be the night sky, or a rainbow, or a beautiful sunrise, or the shaking power of thunder — we should praise the creator behind it all. As David figuratively but poetically wrote, God’s fingers put the stars in place.
As Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:20)
The first and last verse of today’s psalm both say: “O LORD, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” The phrase, “O LORD our sovereign,” is in other translations “O LORD, our Lord” which might sound redundant, but LORD spelled in all capitals is what our English translators use to indicate the Hebrew name for God, “Yahweh.” This is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) and basically means, “I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.” God is the great “I am,” the absolutely existing one. God always has been and always will be. God never changes. God is not created. God just is. And everything else in the world is dependent upon God.
The second word “sovereign” or “Lord” with only a capital “L” is translated from the Hebrew word, “Adonai,” which means “master” or “boss” or “ruler.” So in saying “O LORD our sovereign,”or “O LORD, our Lord”, David is effectively saying, “Yahweh, you are our Master.”
God is over all, and as such, his name—God’s character, God’s being—deserves to be praised and worshiped across the whole earth.
Then David gives us reasons God deserves such praise. First, he points to the glory of creation. He says, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” And he adds in verse 3, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place...” I can imagine David remembering gazing up at the night sky during his days as a shepherd out in the countryside as he wrote those words.
And when David talks about the work of God’s fingers, he isn’t talking about finger painting – the allusion is much more likely to be to the work of embroidery. So skill, but also creativity. And care. And precision.
In verse 2 David tells us that God has founded out of the mouths of babes and infants, a bulwark against his foes. God takes the praise of babies and infants to silence God’s foes. Of all that God could do, he uses the praise of children. It seems crazy, doesn’t it? Surely grown-ups would do a better job. Babies are pretty helpless creatures. Yet, a recurring theme in scripture is that God uses the weak to overcome the strong.
God likes to take down giants with a boy wielding a sling. As David himself knew very well. It is always God’s strength, not ours. That way God gets the glory.
If we think back to Palm Sunday. As Jesus was entering Jerusalem, cleansing the Temple, and healing people, some children began joining their parents in worshiping Jesus as the “Son of David,” a title for the long-awaited Messiah. Some of the religious leaders complained to Jesus, saying, “Don’t you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus first replied with a simple, “Yes.” In other words, “Yes, I hear them, and I am not going to correct them, because they are right. I am the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Then he went on to quote the Greek version of verse 2 of this psalm, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself” which ended the discussion, and which fulfilled exactly what the verse said: that the enemies of God would be silenced by the praise of children and infants. (Matt 21:15-17)
The key question of the psalm comes in verse 4, when David asks, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” To be “mindful of” means to remember someone – but not simply to ‘not forget’, rather it means to do things because of them. So David is asking: “God, why are we so important that you remember us, that you care for us?”
Many Christians struggle with this, because we know that none of us are really worthy of God’s love. But God chooses to love us, chooses to favour us. Chooses to love us so much that he sent his only begotten Son into creation to rescue us.
Going back to contemplating the heavens, though: do you ever think that maybe Galileo and Copernicus got it wrong, that our solar system doesn’t really revolve around the sun? Because on some days it seems like everything just revolves around ourselves? We all have our moments of self-centeredness, right? And even if we don’t admit it about ourselves, we all can think of people who it seems do believe that the world revolves around them.
In fact, humans often do a good job of putting a metaphorical tent up to block out their view of the glory of God, just as they do to block out the night sky. Just as the light pollution of our city can stop us seeing the magnificence of the night sky, all the distractions of the world can stop people seeing the glory of God.
As Christians, our value, our self-worth doesn’t come from positive thinking, or from pep-talks, or from motivational posters. It doesn’t even come from what we achieve or what we do. Or what we give. Or what other people think of us.
As Christians, our self-worth comes from knowing that God loves us, God values us. And no matter what we go through, we need to remember that God is mindful of us. God remembers us. Each one of us is on God’s mind today. And always.
And just like clouds sometimes block our view of the night sky, the dark clouds of our lives sometimes block our view of the glory of God. But when that happens, we need to remember that just as the stars of the night sky continue to shine on the other side of the clouds, so does God’s glory and love continue – even if it doesn’t feel like it. As John’s gospel tells us: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Not only does God love us, but God also entrusts a special task to us. David talks of how God created humans just a “little lower than God,” and put us in charge of all the creation. This takes us back to Genesis 1:26-27, where God said, “‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
Here in Psalm 8 David says “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their 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.”
Or at Peter tells us, which we were reminded of a few weeks ago: “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
We – we all - have a special place in the world. In the universe. In creation. Human beings are not just another living thing on the earth. Human beings are special. But the sad reality is that people don’t always live up to that special place – instead they contribute to the destruction of the environment, the destruction of society and the destruction of other people.
But that doesn’t have to be the way.
Paul and the writer of Hebrews both point to Jesus as the ultimate fulfilment of Psalm 8. In becoming human, in becoming one of us, Jesus made himself a little lower than the heavenly beings, to become one of us, to die on a cross, and to be raised on the third day, overcoming sin and conquering death for good. Once and for all. And Jesus will return to institute a new heaven and a new earth.
As we wait for that day, we can say with David “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
But we don’t just wait. We don’t just stand around hoping for something to happen soon. Because we have dominion over the world, we have a responsibility to use that dominion wisely… to use that dominion faithfully. To work to restore all things into relationship with God. We all get to be part of God’s mission – and it’s the mission that we heard in this morning’s gospel reading “…Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”” (Matt 28:18-20a)”
That’s the mission of the church. That’s our mission, as a group and as individuals. It’s our mission in response to God’s glory revealed in Jesus.
And it is a daunting mission, and it will sometimes be a difficult mission, and we will sometimes suffer and we will sometimes fail.
But there are two things in our favour: Firstly, the mission is sharing the gospel. Sharing good news. And good news is meant to be shared.
Secondly, and even more importantly, we aren’t alone in this mission: Jesus said “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)
It is not our strength, but his. It is not our power, but the Spirit’s power. And it is not our glory, but God’s.
And so it is that we, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, can stand with David and, “O Lord, our Sovereign, [O Yahweh, our Master], how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
To the glory of God.
Prayer of offering
Yet you have made us a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned us with glory and honour.
You have given us dominion over the works of your hands; and you have put all things under our feet,
All that we have, we have received from you,
And so we ask you to receive and bless the offering of our worship, wherever we are,
and consecrate our bodies, minds and spirits, so that we may give ourselves to you, as a living sacrifice,
dedicated and fit for your acceptance;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Nelson Mandela said “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.” To do that, we need to know the glory of God ourselves. And to do that, we need to share God’s glory with others.
So as we finish our time together: may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and for ever more.
Hymns for this week:
Next week (14 June 2020):
Lectionary: Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7 or Exodus 19:2-8a, Psalm 116:1-2,12-19 or Psalm 100, Matt 9:35,10:8-23, Romans 5:1-8
For worship: Psalm 116:1-2,12-19 , Romans 5:1-8
Theme: “Responding to God”