Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
August 20, 2017
“Tomorrow – Worry or Wonder?”
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension
Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
The Irish have a saying, “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.” Those Irish are pretty smart folk!! Let’s see if this one can be good at the beginning and end and short in the middle!!
Today I’m going to be talking about what everyone is talking about – the Eclipse. For some it is bigger than the Super Bowl (XXXXVIII, but not 50, of course!!) What are they saying? Tomorrow, Wyoming a state with 585,000 residents is going to see 600,000 visitors. Anyone going north into Wyoming and Nebraska is going to be in rush hour all day long – there and back.
This is big!! I watched a video reel about it on Monday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and they said the next time it comes back to this area will be 375 years from now. Except for our youngest folks, like newly-baptized 2 week-old, Jensen Lawrenz, the next time it comes around here we won’t be here!! Maybe taking the day off to catch it will be worth it.
Solar eclipses have been met with great consternation through the history of the world. In many ancient societies a total eclipse was seen as a sign of impending doom. On August 2, 1133 a total eclipse coincided with the death of King Henry I in England and the struggle for the throne launched England in civil war.
So, should tomorrow bring worry, or wonder? Please open your Pew Bibles to Page 558 and read Psalm 8 with me. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider 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, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; and put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Tomorrow, should it be worry, or wonder? Wonder!! Sometimes I wish I had a mind for the sciences, like so many of you, because science is just so amazing. I wonder if someone has already calculated the exact time and path for this next total eclipse that is going to come to our area 375 years from now. Don’t you just love creation!! It is orderly, predictable. That is how our great God has made it. All this stuff that we see didn’t arrive here by chance, by some big mistake, no – God in His genius, in His formation, has done all of this by His miraculous mind.
What’s the most impressive thing that you have seen? Some of you have been to the Grand Canyon and caught it early in the morning, or when the sun went down and you marveled at its beauty. Some of you have watched a whale make its way from the ocean waters, or have seen pure coral reefs. Some have skied and have been at the top of some Colorado mountain and you swear you could see a hundred miles. Or, tomorrow morning, in Alliance, Nebraska at 11:51 for about two minutes you will see a complete eclipse of the sun and you will see the halo-like corona. Wonder!!
There are many folks who love creation. They can’t get enough of seeing the wonders of this world. But, please, don’t stop there!! Love the creation. Marvel at the creation. But more than that – love the Creator, marvel at the Creator. This Psalm begins and ends with the same word, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1)
Tomorrow the word, “Wow!!” might be all that our vocabulary can muster – not just for what we see, but for the One who planned it. Psalm 104 says, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…the moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night.” (Verses 24, 19-20a)
God does this stuff in nature when He wants to catch our attention. Look at the big days in the life of Jesus. His birth, His death, His resurrection and His return all have signs that God put into nature – into the sky – many times. On the night when Christ was born God placed thousands of angels into the sky, making a most brilliant sight. And then a thousand miles away a star, a light, led the Magi from the east and it shown until it came to the place where Christ was. Wonder!! Or how about the day He died? “And darkness came over the whole land from noon until 3:00.” (See Matthew 27:45) When He rose? “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.” (Matthew 28:2) And the return of Christ and conclusion of the world? He’s going to prepare us with signs in the sky. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea…When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25,28)
Tomorrow is a wonder. Once again we see God’s faithfulness in His design. Isn’t it great that we get to be a part of this genius? Creation is wonderful. The Creator even more so!! But there is something greater than the creation, it is the height of His creation – people!! “When I consider 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, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)
The wonder is not just in what we see, it is how we are treasured by God. We are just a little lower than heavenly beings. That is why the horror of what happened in Charlottesville and in Spain, among those who hate people because of their skin color or because of their religion, is so awful. Every person, no matter what nationality they are, what language they speak, what colors their skin, if they are inside the womb or out of it, or what confession of faith they make, they are all the height of God’s creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
The wonder we see tomorrow is only a small piece of God’s wonder. All of mankind, by His own words, is greater than anything else He has made. When Jesus talks about the beauty of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and how they are taken care of, He then asks the question of us, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26b) We are.
And then the wonder of what God does only increases. He not only makes us and provides for us, He loves us to death!! “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32)
We are God’s people destroyed by sin but fully saved by Jesus Christ. It is a wonder that the dead can be made alive again and the lost can be found, but that is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for us. Into a life that has way too much sin, way too many wrong decisions, a Lord comes who would carry every sin, clean our souls and says that if we repent of our sins and turn to Him in faith that we will have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. He tells us that we will rise in our bodies to spend eternity, body and soul in heaven. To every worry that we might have as to what will happen next for us, we have an answer through the actions of Jesus Christ. What a wonder!!
Tomorrow is going to be a unique day, filled with wonder. Marvel at the creation; worship and adore the Creator. Appreciate what God does for all that He has made; be humbled how He dignifies the crown of creation – you and I. Trust that the wonder of all He does isn’t for a few minutes, or for a day, but for eternity.
A good beginning; a good end; and a few good things in the middle – God is always in the process of writing good sermons. Amen!!