“O Lord our Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth” Psalm 8:1
Neither the verse from today’s Psalm, nor yet the picture of a glorious sunrise has been chosen to give us a warm fuzzy feeling in the midst of the uncertainty surrounding coming out of lockdown or a slight relaxation of the shielding regulations. I do, however, want to capture something of the wonder the Psalmist feels for the grandeur, glory and reliability of God, the God who made us and saved us, the God who laughs with us and weeps with us, the God who understands the pain of separation and the joy of welcoming home someone who has long been away.
Let me underline three unchanging truths to be solid ground under our feet while the whole world is moving round us.
God is PERSONAL
It’s hidden in our English translation but the first “Lord” is the personal name of God revealed to Moses in the story of the burning bush. In the way former generations translated the Hebrew we have it in the hymn “Guide me O thou great Jehovah.” God doesn’t hide himself away but invites us to know him personally. When we pray, we are not seek a distant impersonal deity but coming to the one whom Jesus introduces as “Father.” The incarnate Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, was great at building relationships whether with fishermen, tax collectors, a five-times divorced woman or a professor of theology. The knowledge of us and love for us that God has is real, deep and personal.
God builds COMMUNITY
I was listening to short video by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of the United States, (Yes there really is one!) he was preaching on this Psalm and he made the point that we address God as “O Lord OUR Lord.” There is a real sense of people coming together as the family of God in praise and prayer, learning and loving, proclaiming and serving. It is the same with Jesus who taught us to pray saying “OUR Father.” It’s one of the reasons the lockdown restrictions, necessary and life-saving as they are, are difficult for Christians because we want to be together. We want to break bread at the Lord’s table, to hear his word read and expounded, to smile at each other and enjoy the chocolate biscuits after the service. Every phone call we make to each other, every garden meeting we might now have, builds the community of Christ. As the Archbishop of York put it “The Church has left the building.”
God is SOVEREIGN
That’s the meaning of the second “Lord” in our verse. It means the one who is ultimately in charge. God is not a dictator. He doesn’t step in, flick a switch and remove responsibility from us. Jesus shows us sovereignty in service. He is never more King than when he wears a crown of thorns, never more Lord than when he dies in our place on the cross, never more God than when he is content to be a microscopic foetus in the womb of Mary his Mother. If we would live out his reign in our lives then we take everything to him in prayer and live out everything for him in service.
Two lines from Brian Wren’s communion hymn put it beautifully
We strain to glimpse your mercy seat
and find you kneeling at our feet.
The Very Revd Robert Key