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This is part two of an ongoing series where we examine the Psalms greatest hits. This is not a “deep-dive” exegetical series to titillate the intellect. If the Psalms are not experienced deep within the soul, then the words are lost on us. My purpose in this series is to cut through the exoskeleton and veneer, and allow the bottomless well of love captured in these words to burst out and take us where they may.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!“
This phrase which begins and ends the 8th Psalm, serves as bookends which hold three profound trajectories of thought. These are:
- The gravity and glory of God is mostly beyond us, but we can perceive it in small corners of experience.
“You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.”
God is often revealed to us in paradox. Small things under the right light are anything but small. It seems unlikely that a baby could still our enemy. Have you noticed that some passing moments possess more depth and beauty than our frailty can bear? There is a world of experience just beyond the purview of our senses of which we know almost nothing. The love we cherish in life is borrowed and invisible, but displaces the daily horrors we all face. If we slow down long enough, if we look deep enough, behold, it’s all right here. Right now. Heaven really has come to us. We can join it’s flow each moment.
2. Contemplating creation makes us feel small and births deeper existential questions.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
From the tiny moment of bigness erupts questions about our juxtaposition within it all. We are more than observers, we are also somehow participants. The tiny insect on a tiny leaf is amazing as we look at it and contemplated it. How much more the vast universe into which we find ourselves. In light of modern science, the mere scale of the universe shrinks us to something much smaller than the insect in our gaze. Who are we? Are we alone? Do we have a real and lasting purpose? Does God give us more consideration than we give this bug?
3. Humanity is not inconsequential, but shares and participates in the glory of God and creation.
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”
Despite evolutionary theory’s necessity to reduce us to the gaseous expulsion of a neighboring star, there is clearly something profoundly unique about humanity compared to all other living species. Our ability to self reflect, to contemplate, and to explore and know something of consciousness itself means that we live beyond a perfunctory instinct modality. That we can lead, shape, direct and exploit all aspects of creation reveals that we are endowed with power and purpose even when we fail to grasp what it may be. Our impact proves we are co-creators. Oh that we would take this to heart. Would that our powers were used to create heaven rather than a hell.
I’d like to invite you to create some sacred space and pay attention to your soul. Sit with nature. Be still by a river, a tree or in a breeze. Start at the sense level, what do you feel? Perceive? Try and turn everything mechanical off. Notice your thoughts (if you can) but don’t let them take you away. Just observe and come back to now. Contemplate your juxtaposition in the universe. Are all the things that consume your energy going to matter in a 100 years? You are not disconnected from anything. Though a small part, you are an integral part, just as I am and everyone else. In this place, who are you? What is your real name? Not your indexes, but who are you? Stay as long as you can. Come back as often as possible.
May the tiny insect along with the vast universe reveal and inspire our greater purpose in God and in creation. May we pause along with the psalmist to take in just who we are as well as who we aren’t. May the answer come which fills us to overflowing: we are not our job titles, we are not our last name, we are not our zip code, our clothes, our car our are friends, we are not what is wrong nor what is right with us, we ARE simply the beloved of God, just like everyone else.
May we live we actually believe it.