“All About Him” Psalm 8
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
In February of 2020, my friend from my first parish, Gary Rafert, called to tell me that his mother, Donna, had died. He called me to ask if I would preach at her service. Yes. I was honored to do so. I had been her pastor for 9 years and we had kept in touch since then – it was a joy to speak at that important time of life.
But, Gary told me, he did not want the sermon to be about her. He had attended too many funerals where the preacher would go on and on about the person who had died. He didn’t want that. I agreed.
But, you know, you should never tell a stubborn, Norwegian pastor, what to say in the pulpit, even at a funeral. So, I titled the sermon, “All About Donna.” I’ll tell you later how that sermon came out.
Do you know what a septillion is? It is a number, a very big one. A million is 1 followed by 6 zeroes. A billion is 1 followed by 9 zeroes. If you have 4 ½ of them you can buy a football team! A trillion, a number you never heard of until recently, is 1 followed by 12 zeroes.
A septillion is 1 followed by 24 zeroes. That is how many stars astronomers say make up the universe. This is what I heard – our galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 400 billion stars in it. And the Milky Way is just one of the 160-180 billion galaxies that make up the universe. So if you take 400 billion, the average number of stars in a galaxy, and multiply it by the 160 billion galaxies, you come up with a septillion.
And this is what the psalmist says about this, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth…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?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4a)
Just think of that. A septillion stars and His finger made them all. Like Psalm 19 begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of your hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Verses 1-3) Everything you get to see is all about Him, our God, and His majesty.
Today I want you to know how great our Triune God is. He is great because He is mighty and strong and a genius. But more than that – He has a personal concern for our lives. Today I am going to tell you how this most powerful God is a most personal God.
But before I tell you about the day of my car crash on May 4, I want to tell you that what my mother told me for years. She always said, “John, you have to change your underwear everyday. If you’re in an accident and you go to the hospital you need to be wearing clean underwear.” Well, I was in an accident and I went to the hospital and they didn’t even check my underwear. They cut off my shirt, they cut off my shorts and they cut off my underwear and threw them all away they didn’t even check if I was wearing clean underwear. By the way – they were clean.
Do you know why our faith is all about Him? It is because He has made His life all about us. Just before 7 in the morning, on Wednesday, May 4, I saw a large moving truck heading right toward me, on I-40 just west of Gallup, New Mexico. In my mind I said, “This is how I am going to die.” But I didn’t. Really, I came out with only minor injuries – things that will get repaired within a few months. God was mindful of me that day.
But what was even greater of God being mindful of me was He was mindful of my wife, Marilyn. We were planning to go to Phoenix to visit my parents. Marilyn tells me how to get around in Phoenix. I get lost the moment I hit the 101 – one of the main roads – in Phoenix. But a few days before we were going to go, she became ill with stomach problems. We figured it would not be wise to begin an 865-mile trip with a bad belly. So she programmed my phone, gave me a map and told me that I could call her when I got lost.
I’m glad that she didn’t go. She would not have survived the accident. The passenger side in the car, when the car was pushed into a concrete underpass, was destroyed.
God has made this life all about us. The psalmist is amazed at the great hand of God in creation and the humble care of us who are just mere 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. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you 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!” (Psalm 8:3-9)
This is Trinity Sunday, this is the day to say and to believe – It is all about Him. And the reason that it is all about Him is because He makes this life all about us. “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Do you see it? Do you see it in your life? Do you see that God takes a special interest in you?
Trinity – our God is God the Father, your Creator. Our God is Jesus Christ, your Savior, the one who purchased your life with His life. Our God is the Holy Spirit, who brought you to a living faith and who lives in you with great power and a holy purpose.
When we look at our lives and how God our Father made us unique and different from anyone else, we praise Him for what He does. When we look around us and see the beauty of what He has made, we marvel at His planning and purpose. During this last month I have thanked God for all the people that He gave skills to who used them for my good – surgeons, nurses, therapists – and so many others. I would not have recovered and begun to live life again without God allowing others to be His hands of healing.
When we look at our lives and turn our hearts alone to Jesus for forgiveness of our sins and our hope for everlasting life, we know that our hope is only because of Him. In Ephesians 2 this word about this hope is given, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Verses 4-6) It is all about Him because He has made His life and mission all about us. Paul says in Philippians about the humble heart of our Lord Jesus – “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” (2:6-7) Our faith and confidence is all about Him because He made His life and ministry all about us.
Immediately after the accident I had a number of people who ran to my car, asked if I was ok, and then I remember a man, in a red shirt, who said, “I won’t leave until help has arrived.” That brought me peace. At that moment, in that situation, I needed that presence. That is what is so great about God the Holy Spirit. He is called the Comforter. He is God’s continued presence in our life. He is great in His faithful presence at every moment – whether good or bad.
I have learned much in this last month. I learned how utterly dependent I was on other people. I had to have other people give me a shower, push me in a wheel-chair, and later to help me walk about 25 steps. My son, Danny, who flew in from Phoenix, to take care of me in those initial weeks of me being home, wrote directions to those who would care for me once he left, “Socks are the hardest thing for dad, he’ll need you to put them on and take them off.” I needed gracious people for just about everything.
I have learned how majestic God is by how He has put the human body together, how He is the one that begins to bring healing the moment it gets injured and most especially how He treasured a snot-nosed kid from South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and gave him (me) another day of life. I learned that our life can only be all about Him because everyday He makes life all about us – each of us.
I’d better finish that account about Donna Rafert’s funeral sermon. Gary, her son, said that he didn’t want the sermon about her, but about Jesus. Jesus saved her. Jesus made her His. Jesus gave her a mansion in heaven. So when I titled the sermon, “All About Donna,” I told the listeners that Jesus made His promises, His mercy, His forgiveness and His hope all about Donna. And He does the same for us.
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” That’s a good question. You know – we must be pretty important to God. Amen!!