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Feb 16, 2020

A Transcendent Problem: Life's Greatest Glory

Passage: Psalms 8:1-9

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Problem-Solving

Category: Problem-Solving

Keywords: faith, glory, psalm 8, transcendence, apollo 11, buffered self


Problem-Solving, Part 3: We call the next problem ‘transcendence.’ Most people today lived ‘buffered’ lives. The material, natural world and life is all there is. If there is a ‘God’ the divine has nothing to do with my day to day life. I live for today and for the moment. But this buffered life is haunted by experiences, unfulfilled longings, and both the beauty and fleeting beauty of mortality which all make us wonder if there isn’t something more. So life is frustrated because we expect divine results from earthly, material, mortal experiences and persons. Do we really have a soul? Are we really made for God? Our teaching and application is, “Life’s Greatest Glory.” Psalm 8 draws us into this question asking, ‘What is a human being?’ What is life for? How do we find glory? The psalm connects heaven with earth in the majesty of God revealed in Jesus Christ.


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Life’s Greatest Glory


We live in a buffered age.

That means most people live

day to day without seeking, fearing, or trusting

that there is a God who

governs and provides,

causes what is good and suffers evil,

whose grace calls and saves . . .

a God who is actively involved

the events and wonders, mysteries, sufferings

joys and sorrows of everyday life,

and that my purpose in life

is to enjoy serving and giving glory

to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Psalm 8 sounds foreign, other worldly.

People don’t get it, assuming

this material world is all there is.

The goal of human life is flourishing

which is measured materially:

health, wealth, freedom, happiness,

and giving yourself to these goals

makes for an authentic, a well-lived life.

Yet at the same time

there is this haunted feeling that

we’re all missing out on something.

That even a successful, free life

lacks significance.

We’re missing transcendence,

connecting with the divine and holy:

like, the answer to the meaning of life,

the answer to questions like

where did I come from?

why am I here?

And where am I heading?

If people aren’t missing God

they are missing the blessing of God’s saving grace:

the answer to the eternity that’s in their hearts.


Something of what is sung in Psalm 8:

1 Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

    in the heavens.


Psalm 8 turns us back to the Lord God

through our gaze at creation

to say yes, there is a true God,

majestic and active in life and creation.

How majestic is your name in all the earth:

in all the earth,

here, among us,

active in our lives.

Human beings can sense the Lord’s

sovereign presence;

more, we’re made to respond to

the Lord’s majesty

with reverent service,

keeping and tending all that God has made,

from rocks and trees and skies and seas,

thru work and rest, worship and sacrifice,

to the last, least, little, and lost.


We got a glimpse of our Heavenly Father’s promised presence this morning as we witnessed

and celebrated profession of faith and baptism.

Questions like,

What is the significance of the birth of a baby?

What does my life story contribute

to the life of the world?

Where do I belong?

The Triune God gave me life

and guides my life for the glory of God.

As I witness a baptism,

I am seeing in this little one, Ainsley,

my littleness.

And as I hear the Heavenly Father’s promise to her

I hear it again given to me.

I am a child of God.

I live by the Lord’s promises.

Then as I hear the profession of faith in Jesus,

I profess again my own faith with Michelle,

grateful for forgiveness,

hearing again the call to follow.


Without such promises heard, received and trusted,

we wind up looking for transcendence

in earthly things.

I put faith in things like:

a concert to stir my emotions,

or a hike in the mountains

to connect me again with nature

Sex replaces divine love.

We look to politics and government to save us.

We are enslaved to social media

hoping it provides the belonging, support, fellowship, and community we’re missing

since we don’t look for it

from Christ and his church anymore.


And all these thrill us, satisfy us,

bring joy and gladness to us,

but only for a moment.

And that’s the problem.

We’re trying to make earthly things

bring heavenly connections.

We look to mortals for immortality.

We’re using unholy and unrighteous things

as a substitute for holiness and righteousness.

We’re trying to find heaven on earth.

In the end we set up our spouses,

our parents,

our friends,

our work,

our pleasures,

our country and freedoms,

for failure,

because we’re asking them

to be what only the Lord God can be for us.


I saw this up close in an episode of The Crown

called ‘Moondust.’

It’s 1969, and the Duke of Edinburgh,

Prince Philip, is captivated

along with the rest of the world

with Apollo 11, and the lunar landing.


I don’t know if we all really appreciate

what a defining moment that was for the world,

not only scientifically, but spiritually.


On Aug 13, 1969,

my dad took me and my brother downtown

to see the parade.

The Apollo 11 astronauts went on a world tour:

Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong,

paraded thru the city

celebrating the walk on the moon.

Tens of thousands of people

spent a Wednesday afternoon on the Chicago streets

watching basically one car with three men drive by.

And it was glorious!


Not only was it a testimony of scientific advancement

and the glory of human achievement,

it united the world.

People all over the world gathered around tv sets

and paused at radio announcements

and scoured newspaper headlines

as they followed the flight to the moon,

and then the landing,

and then Armstrong’s steps on the lunar surface

and his lasting announcement-

that’s one small step for a man,

one giant leap for mankind.


After that, when you asked,

What is mankind?

You answered with that accomplishment.

Then began to ask, what is the need for God?


That’s what Prince Philip thinks.

As he and the Queen and their kids huddle

around the TV watching Apollo 11 he exclaims:

“Extraordinary. What men. What courage.”

They’ve achieved something “spectacular.”

In Prince Philip’s estimation

they’re “at one with God — and happy.”

The scientific achievement or Apollo 11!

Now that was a Sunday service!


How different in their church!

We see Philip, sitting in church

next to Queen Elizabeth,

bored and anything but happy.

As the aging dean preaches his sermon,

Philip leans over to the Queen and says,

“It’s not a sermon. It’s a general anesthetic.”

Where’s the majesty there compared to

a new world of rockets and Moon landings?

Someone remarks:

the moon landing was

“500 million people getting from televisions

what they used to get from the church:

a sense of coming together,

a sense of community, of awe, of wonder.”


When the new dean asks to set up a retreat center

for those struggling with faith Philip is incensed.

He listens as priests speak of their failures,

their own struggles to believe,

watching people leave their churches

for something more exciting.

 “You don’t raise your game by talking or thinking,”

Philip chews out the church.

“You raise your game through action.”

“What you lot need to do is to get off your backsides,

get out into the world,

and bloody well do something,” Philip tells them.

“Action is what defines us.

Action, not suffering.”

Their “talking and thinking” is cowardly

compared to the remarkable bravery

of the Apollo 11 astronauts,

whom Philip idolizes as gods among men.


But being a Prince has its perks.

So the Apollo 11 crew,

that we only got to see drive by

on upper Wacker Drive,

have a personal meeting with Philip.

For Philip he cannot imagine anything

more glorious, to meet these men.

He’s looking to be inspired,

no, more than that, transformed,

remade in their image,

the image of humans who become like god.


Yet when Philip eventually meets

Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in person,

his dream of transcendence is crushed.

He confesses later,

I expected them to be giants, gods.

They were only little men.

They disappointed as human beings.

Each had caught a cold –

sneezing and coughing and tired

with little energy or ability

to reflect on human purpose.

Comically, they are more impressed with Philip

and his royal life than what they accomplished.


Even the greatest humans are fragile,

mortal creatures.

Every human gets colds.

They all disappoint.

They all die.

They can’t carry the burden of ultimate meaning

or justification.

They are dust,

and to dust they will return.

Even the best of human flourishing

doesn’t fill the empty space for God within us.


 A humbled Philip returns for a second meeting

with the clergy he previously dismissed.

Having admitted to himself his own weakness—

grieving the death of his mother

and his loss of faith—

he confesses to the priests,

“I now find myself full of respect and admiration

and not a small part of desperation

as I come to say help. Help me.”


Philip thought he could find divine wonder

and ecstasy in human achievement and excellence.

It turns out his disappointments and dissatisfaction,

which he blamed on ineffective belief in God,

were directed by the Holy Spirit

to invite him back to faith

in the One God who satisfies.

I confess something is a-miss in me, he says.

What was missing was that faith-relationship

with Jesus.

And that led to all his loneliness,

emptiness, and haunting desolation.

As Psalm 8 reveals,

the solution is not found in ingenuity,

science, or even bravery,

the answer is found where faith resides.

This is a human being’s greatest glory,

to live humbly, repentantly, in a serving

faith-relationship to God in Jesus Christ.


Prince Philip and Dean Robin Woods

went on to form a lifelong friendship

and partnership

equipping and counseling

the relationship between human beings

and the Triune God.


One of first acts performed on Apollo 11,

after first landing on the Moon,

was a celebration of Communion

by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Aldrin reported later

“In the radio blackout,

I opened the little plastic packages

which contained the bread and the wine.

I poured the wine into the chalice

our church had given me.

In the one-sixth gravity of the moon,

the wine slowly curled

and gracefully came up the side of the cup.

Then I read the Scripture:

“ I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.


“Eagle’s metal body creaked.

I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine.

I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit

that had brought two young pilots

to the Sea of Tranquility.

It was interesting for me to think:

the very first liquid ever poured on the moon,

and the very first food eaten there,

were the communion elements.”

Buzz also read Psalm 8: 3-4:

3 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

4 "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”


Transcendence, communion with God,

not from mere scientific achievement,

but submitting our achievements

to the majesty of the Redeemer and Savior.


Psalm 8 is the only psalm

that is a direct address to the Lord

for the whole psalm.

It’s a revelation that God is present and active

and that human beings are made to relate by faith

to this one true God.

God is with us.

The Lord’s presence with us thru life and creation

thru the sharing of life, death, and the resurrection

of Jesus, is received and responded to

by those who praise, worship, and serve the Lord

in Christ’s name.

Scott Hoezee quotes Larry Rasmussen saying

it's difficult to distinguish salvation

from good highlands agriculture

and animal husbandry.

God's plans, purposes, and promises

are again and again tied together with things like

soil and fruit, flocks and meadows, wine and wheat.

Life, God, and faith are that closely intertwined.


So this begins the solution

to our problem of transcendence.

We are only living buffered lives by choice.

Have a look, says Psalm 8:

3 When I consider your heavens,

    the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

    which you have set in place,

4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

What did Jesus say?

He who has ears to hear, let him listen.

What did he say?

Look at the birds of the air

and the flowers of the field.


Then verses 4-5 reveal our place:

4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

5 You have made them a little lower than the angels

    and crowned them with glory and honor.


This is an amazing grace.

Because one way to gaze at the night sky

and consider creation

is to conclude how small we are

and how meaningless our existence.

When Voyager 1 took a picture of planet earth

from the edge of our solar system

Carl Sagan famously concluded:

“Look again at that dot.

That's here. That's home. That's us.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance,

the delusion that we have some privileged position

in the Universe,

are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck

in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

In our obscurity, in all this vastness,

there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.


Psalm 8 speaks differently,



from the reality

that the Father, Son, and Spirit

sovereignly rule and reign.

In the light of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, who am I?

Made a little lower than the angels,

crowned with glory and honor.


Here is the irony:

When we put our faith

in our own excellence and autonomy,

being our own lords

and finding meaning

in our own will and way with out God,

we wind up looking small, disappointing, missing out.

When we, by faith,

enjoy our trust and obedience

in the presence and will of God,

because of Christ’s cross and resurrection

even our simplest tasks

are crowned with honor and glory.

When we treat life as a gift

and a human being as one made in God’s image

we are open to new realities

that sin and brokenness hide or rob from us.


It’s February.

Your home may feel cold.

Your office may look dingy and small.

Your textbooks are frayed.

Life is more grey than vibrant.

The news is getting old.

But God is with us;

the Lord’s majesty in all the earth.

The material is limited.

But the Creator’s glory is offered within.

Will you receive it?

6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

    you put everything under their feet:


In the daily wonder and beauty of such toil,

sacrifice, gladness and trust

with the things of this earth that cannot fully satisfy,

we experience the presence of the Savior and Lord

for whom we are made

and who gives complete satisfaction

now and for eternity.


You matter.

Your work matters.

Your schooling matters.

The way you make promises and keep them matters.

Confessing your sin and repenting of it matters.

Being a neighbor matters.

Your giving and forgiving matters.

Blessing another matters.

Suffering with another matters.


But it only matters for good in relationship

to the Lord Jesus.

We bear God’s image.

When we betray that image God is betrayed,

and life and creation are diminished.

When we seek to find meaning and purpose

without the cross and resurrection of Jesus

and the ongoing comfort of the Holy Spirit,

we quickly lose our way.


And when we live for the mere pleasure

and enjoyment of it all

without the gratitude to God

such blessing calls from us,

our enjoyment gets stale.

In short,

all our days are filled with God-given tasks:

from trusting to being assured

to praying and praising,

but also to blessing others

and sharing in the burdens of others,

all to draw out what is best

and to fight against what threatens

God’s good creation.


It’s to be ministers:

stewards, prophets and priests,

servants in Christ’s name.

That too, becomes a witness to the active

gracious power of Christ with us,

a window into God’s presence

to those who cannot see.


A friend of mine ministers

on one of the worst, poorest,

most violent streets in Denver, Colfax Avenue.

Here’s what he said recently:

Here along East Colfax, I have three words I use

that get a large response. Like magic.

Transcendence where you’d least expect to find it.

Those three words—“I’m a pastor”—

are nearly magical here.

I’m seen as a friend and protector,

the light of Jesus in their brutal,

violent and dark world. 

Some start out hostile to this big white dude.

A hello gets me daggers

and a refusal to shake my hand.

But when I say—“I’m a pastor”—

all of a sudden we connect.  Magic!


Here, in some of the toughest territory in our city, where life is violent, dark and dangerous,

there is a core belief about pastors.

They expect pastors to be here;

they welcome our presence.

They recognize that we are here to love them.

Even if they aren’t ready to engage us

or Jesus deeply,

the power of our presence is palpable.


Not just pastors.

They also expect the church to be here;

they welcome our presence. 


One night, at another motel,

some team members saw a child

from a family we know well.

The child ran ahead to the room, shouting,

“The church is here!”

Four words—“The church is here!”

Also powerful, also magical.



Psalm 8 holds out for us Life’s Greatest glory:

to rightly recognize God as Creator and Redeemer,

and rightly respond by faith in our work and rest,

our play and striving,

our loving and serving,

our hopes and dreams;

to find connection with divine transcendence

not in our own limited glory,

but in the help of the Father,

where faith resides within and among us.