Old Testament: Proverbs (8:1-4, 22-31)
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
The Response: Psalm 8
1 O Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2 Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?
6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;
7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:
8 All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,
9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10 O Lord our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
The Epistle: Romans (5:1-5)
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
The Gospel: John (16:12-15)
Jesus said to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
Among the many extra events and activities and celebrations that seem to fill our schedules this time of year, Judy and I recently attended the annual Spring Concert at Mark and Micaela’s school. Both of them are part of one of the choirs that participated. The concert included a wide variety of music, from classical to contemporary to music in other languages and from other cultures.
One of the selections was a song that was popular about ten years ago, called “Waiting on the World to Change.” It expresses the frustration that the lyricist feels at the many problems in the world and at the magnitude and complexity of the problems. His chosen response is to sit back, simply waiting for the world to change.
When I first heard the song many years ago, I was reminded of an expression that was common back in the 1960s: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It’s always easy to sit back and criticize, to give our opinion of how things should be or of what other people should do. It’s a lot harder to get up and accept the fact that we are all responsible for changing the world. We can’t just sit around and wait for the world to change; instead, we need to be the agents of change.
That approach is very much in keeping with what the psalmist affirms in Psalm 8, which we prayed together here just a few minutes ago. Psalm 8 is unique in that it is the only hymn in the entire Old Testament that is addressed completely to God. At its beginning and end, it praises the God whom we worship in a special way today, on Trinity Sunday. But the heart of the psalm is a reflection on who we are as human beings, who God has made us to be, and what God expects us to be.
The psalmist, the lyricist for this ancient hymn, reflects on the wonders of the heavens and then asks of the God who has created them all: “What are we human beings that you pay any attention to us at all? And what am I, one, ordinary human being, that you care for me? Yet, despite our insignificance, you have made us little less than gods. You have placed the entire world into our hands.” That’s a powerful statement.
It was common in the ancient world to portray the king as God’s representative on earth, wielding God’s power. But the psalmist makes two important modifications to that image.
First of all, he or she portrays that role of representing God and doing the work of God as applying, not just to a king, but to all of us. The eminent Jewish scholar, Jon Levenson (Creation, p. 114), observes that the picture given by this psalm asserts that “The human race is God’s plenipotentiary, his stand-in.” Talk about having “big shoes to fill”!
Second, the psalmist describes our God-given role, not in terms of dominance over creation, but in terms of caring for creation. It pictures us all as co-creators with God and as sharing in God’s ongoing work of caring for all people and all things. As Walter Brueggemann and William Bellinger (Psalms, pp. 59-60) put it: “God grants to humans the honor of representing God in caring for all of creation. Humans receive the gift of caring for creation as the shepherd king cares for the kingdom.”
Representing God, caring for all of creation, changing the world are, by their very nature, intimidating and overwhelming ideas. But our role in them doesn’t have to be. While we all have a role and a responsibility in God’s work, the part that each of us plays is obviously very limited; but it is also very important.
What specifically can you do? That is a question whose answer inevitably must vary from one individual to another. Some people have specialized skills and training that enables them to make a noticeable, positive difference in other people’s lives on a regular, even daily, basis. But even the rest of us can and must find ways that we make a positive difference in the lives of others, maybe in small, simple ways; but sometimes, the small things make the most difference in the lives of others.
This parish is blessed in many ways. We have many generous people who devote a great deal of time and effort and resources to serving the community around us, to caring for our church facilities, and to working on such wonderful special events as last weekend’s Confirmation and Reception celebration.
But we also have many generous parishioners who regularly devote their time and attention and abilities to caring for one another. Their acts of love usually go on quietly, unnoticed; and they have been going on for years. We have, for example, members of this parish who regularly call or visit other parishioners who can no longer get out very often. We have folks who take others to doctors’ appointments or sit with them in the hospital. We have some who help fellow parishioners get their children to and from church or other activities. We have folks who take others to the grocery or to church or to social groups of which they want to remain a part. We have members who help others with needed home repairs, or who do what they can to fix their cars, or who clean up their yards after a storm. And some members of this parish, who themselves have limited mobility, still take the time simply to call fellow parishioners on the phone, letting them know that they are not forgotten, that they are still important, that they are loved.
None of these ways of caring comes across as exactly earth-shaking, but maybe the earth gets shaken enough. Yet each of them is part of our role of sharing in God’s work of caring for the world and those in it, of brightening people’s lives, and of making the world more the kind of place that God wants it to be.
The God whom we celebrate today as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – or, if you wish, as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer – is One who cares for and gives life to all that is. And we, who are created in God’s image and likeness, have the great honor and awesome duty of being God’s chosen representatives in the world, sent to care for the world and its people in God’s name.
That is who our God is. That is what our God does. And that caring, not just in words but in action, needs to be a lived part of our identity as well. As former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has put it: “One clue to our identity is this, the idea of mirroring God. We have to find what is our particular way of playing back to God [God’s] self-sharing, self-losing care and compassion, the love of which [God] speaks and calls in the first place.”