Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 1st 2017 - / Psalm 8 & Luke 2:21 / Why Does God Care About Humanity?
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 1st 2017: Circumcision and Name of Jesus / Psalm 8 & Luke 2:21 "Why Does God Care About Humanity?"
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
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.
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?
Yet you have made Him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned Him with glory and honour.
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.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hand hath made, I see the stars; I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed; Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!” Doesn’t that sound a lot like our Psalm today, Psalm 8, when the Psalmist says to God, “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,” it does sound like Psalm 8 doesn’t it? “How Great Thou Art” is doing what Psalm 8 does; It, like Psalm 8, talks of creation (as we’ve seen), but this is but one of the three things going on in Psalm 8.
Psalm 8 is also about mankind and about Jesus, “the Son of Man.” Psalm 8, as a Psalm, is rather brief in its description of creation, while “How Great Thou Art” goes on for a whole second verse about the woods, and birds singing in the trees and mountains and the gentle breeze. The hymn was written in a number of stages, brought together by many hands along the way; at one point an English Missionary in Russia named Stuart Hine wrote what is now the first three verses of “How Great Thou Art.” Hine was inspired to write the first verse when he was caught in a thunder storm, the second verse while he heard birds singing along the border to Romania, and the third verse when he witnessed many of the local folks who lived in the Carpathian Mountains coming to faith in Christ Jesus. Each verse capped off with that exclamation in praise of God, "How great Thou art!"
Psalm 8 asks a profound thing. The Psalmist understands and marvels at the exceedingly great majesty of God and the amazing nature of creation and then right in the midst of all of this, the profound question comes forth? “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the Son of Man that You care for Him?”
In the vastness of creation, sprawling out into the deepest reaches of space earth seems so small and insignificant, a blue speck in the night sky. The will and effort needed to run a universe would be immense and here we are; and the Psalmist muses “What is man that You are mindful of him,” it’s like he asks, “why do You bother making sure my heart beats, and that I have breath and thought and motion ... when I’m so small? ... a momentary speck on this speck of a world called Earth floating in the vastness of creation." Add to that, “I’m not even very good; I’m a sinner, a law breaker, and trouble maker, a pest.” And yet the Psalmist doesn’t directly ask, “Who am I that You are mindful of me?” He asks, “What is man that You are mindful of him,” You see we are all lumped in together, we are all sinners, all lawbreakers, all trouble makers and we all need to be rescued from this trouble, the trouble we find ourselves in, we all need to be rescued from ourselves. Because of what we see as our smallness in the grand scheme of things there are sadly many people fear that they are too insignificant for God to even care if they live or die. This can also display itself as Atheism, because of their supposed insignificance some are lead falsely to believe that there is no God at all, certainly not a transcendent creator God who makes all things and personally loves them. The idea that there could be a real God who cares about them in the harsh absurdities of life seems an impossibility.
But God does care, He cares for them and for you and for me, and this is why He sent His Son. And how did He send Jesus? In Jesus’ incarnation: In His miraculous conception, His virgin birth, perfect life and innocent death, in all of this compared to His eternal Divinity, God the Father made Jesus His Son "a little lower than the heavenly beings," as Psalm 8 says. And For His part, Jesus, in obedience and in love of His Father and for the love of us, set aside aspects of His Divine Nature and took on our base creaturely human nature. "The Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt among us." The all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, all-present LORD of all became just a couple dividing cells in the womb of His virgin mother Mary, the Majestic Name above all names made smaller than a speck in order to save you: He became one without a name, so that He could be given a name, a Majestic Name which He now gives to you. Think on it: All was dark in the Virgin's womb and for 9 months "The True Light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world," and, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law," and then, 33 or so years later - no longer a child but rather grown into a man - shroud in darkness upon the cross, "while we were still weak, at the right time [this] Christ [our Jesus] died for the ungodly." He was, and is, and ever shall be, the light which breaks through the darkness, and history and nature and mankind see this same Jesus, this Man God, crowned with glory and honour in His crucifixion, in a way unlike any known to man. The eternal Christ who was made lower than the angels in His suffering and sate of humiliation, is lifted higher than all creation both seen and unseen, at the cross. The universe in its vastness holds its breath as the thorns of Jesus’ crown run around His brow: See it, there Jesus hung reconciling the universe to His Father, just one seemingly insignificant death among many, yet as small as this scene would look upon the canvas of time, it was there, that day, in that place that the love of God’s life blood poured out upon the wooden cross answering the Psalmists question: “what is man that You are mindful of him?”
The words of, “How Great Thou Art” chime back into our ears, echoing the Psalmist question yet providing us with an answer: an answer that the Psalmist could only have dreamed of, an answer made true in Jesus: “But when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in— That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin;”
Today's brief Gospel reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke talks about how, "at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb." In His conception, in His birth, in His circumcision Jesus was not spared from the hardships and dangers of life. In fact, at His circumcision, your eight day old Saviour both officially received His name, Jesus, and shed His first blood in your place fulfilling the law on your behalf, freeing you from the captivity of the law making us, making you, a child of God the Father. Even there before He could walk He was taking His first steps toward the cross of Calvary. Even then He was bearing all of your burdens. This flesh and blood Jesus with each day of His life revealed the faith that was to come, the faith into which you have been baptized and this is Good News.
The Good News of Psalm 8 for you then is that you are saved by this Mighty God, that this coming Saviour in the birth of Christ Jesus became to all the World as insignificant and small as you are in the eyes of the World, as you ever were in the eyes of the World, and this Jesus came to make you as righteous and immense as He is, an outcome quit beyond the expectations of the World. "In the world you will have tribulation," Jesus says, "But take heart;" Jesus says to you, "I have overcome the World.” Yes, being joined in the body of Christ you are made one with the One who saved you. In your baptism you are alive with Jesus. Jesus Who the Father “raised … from the dead and seated … at His right hand in the heavenly places,” Jesus Who was set, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. … [God the Father] put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave Jesus as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” That’s how saint Paul puts it in Ephesians chapter 1; This sounds like the words of Psalm 8, “You [Heavenly Father] have given Him [the Son of Man, this Jesus] 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.” Namely all things, all of it; it’s all under the dominion of Jesus, the Christ – even you, even on the days you don’t feel like it.
Psalm 8 shows the relationship between the Father and Son, between the Son Jesus and all things, and between God and us. We Christians now live in repentant joy watching for the day it will be revealed for what it is, for all to see it with their own eyes. Until then we sing in hopeful anticipation: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!” Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”
In Psalm 8 the Psalmist looks forward to the Messiah, the Christ; he looks forward to the Son of Man’s coming, for the Christ, the Messiah, to come and to have all things made subject to Him. To have even the righteous and the wicked subject to God in Christ Jesus: yet the Psalmist wonders, “Why would God do that for us?”
It’s largly a rhetorical question, a question you’re expected to know the answer for; all the same here is the answer: “Why would God do that for us?” because God made mankind, because He promised our first parents Adam and Eve that He’d save us from Sin, Death, the Devil, the World and even ourselves, and because God doesn’t go back on His promises, this is why He is mindful of us, of you, of me. Saint John echoes all of this when he writes, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him." Life for you in place of death, eternal Life for you in place of the second death and eternal damnation: Forgiveness and pure righteousness in the place of the sin that separates mankind from God. In this Son, in Jesus, God has, as Psalm 8 says, "established strength" because of these your foes, who are His foes too. Enemies conquered at the cross on Good Friday, enemies whose days were numbered at the manger in Bethlehem, enemies who saw the writing on the wall as the infant Jesus was circumcised for you, was named for you. This is why God's name is majestic and worthy of praise: and all this not simply because God promised it, but because He made good on His promise in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus His Son. For all of this we sing to God, “How Great Thou Art!” For all of this we read and hear Psalm 8 with Christmas joy. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord Have Mercy, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, #801, “How Great Thou Art.”
 Then Sings My Soul, Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publisher, pg 213.
 John 1:14
 John 1:9
 Galatians 4:4
 Romans 5:6
 Luke 2:21
 Galatians 3:23-26
 John 16:33
 Ephesians 1:20-23
 John 10:17-18, "And why is God mindful of the son of man? Jesus tells us this: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.”"
 1 John 4:9