Psalm 8 – Trinity Sunday, the Second Sunday of Pentecost – for Sunday, May 22, 2016
“You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur.” (Psalm 8:5)
Please, read it. The Psalm, not the coffee. [Click here for an easy-access version.]
Read it slow, read it twice, read it aloud, or read another translation for comparison’s sake. But after completing your Psalm 8 homework, you can easily rejoin these musings in a fistful of moments.
Now that you’ve scanned the verses, I’m sure you’ll agree with my summary:
God is Extraordinary.
Creation is Stunning.
Humans are . . .
[quoting the Common English Bible]
“slightly less than divine.”
I believe the first part: glory to God!
But wait . . . am I “slightly less than divine?”
Are you “slightly less than divine?”
Unless read merely as a history lesson about humans from long ago and far away, Psalm 8 does claim we homo sapiens are nearly divine. While I view the Bible as more metaphorical than historical, I heartily embrace its words for every new generation of believers.
Every new generation . . . like me now, arriving at birthday #64 in this merry month of May.
I have pictures of me from ten and thirty and fifty years ago. Oh how I’ve changed: wrinkled, hair gray and thin, waist thick, eyes dimmer. The pictures never show it, but I’ll tell it: my joints are now stiff and ye olde back requires daily stretching just to stay on speaking terms with the rest of my body.
Am I, reading Psalm 8 at this cranky stage of life, really “slightly less than divine?”
But the silly comparison to old photos doesn’t truly expose my suspect divinity. It’s more and worse than that.
My goodness, how I still sin.
Old odd habits I thought I’d abandon as I gained wisdom (and lost hair) still hang around like noisy neighborhood kids demanding another game of tag-and-you’re-it. And I am always it, always being chased by a gang of self-doubts, self-blame, and shame.
I think people think I’m a nice guy. Sure, I’m occasionally arrogant, randomly forgetful, and the Good Lord knows I fret too much about the trivial. However, if we were chatting for the first time, you’d likely think me a reasonable fellow. And if you do know me, and have hands-on experience with my foibles and failures, you will still likely agree that old Larry’s okay.
Okay is not “slightly less than divine,” but it’s . . . okay.
And yet I’m not.
Reading Psalm 8, in the current version of myself, is sobering. Six decades under my belt and I continue to be my worst critic.
When younger, I fantasized about tossing out the grim parts of the sacred text. Like those awful, and awfully few, verses the anti-gay bigots always trumpeted as “the truth.” Or like the shudder-and-wince texts where God acted in violent and vengeful ways. And how about deleting the sections where the Bible embarrassingly ignores scientific facts (like the sun standing still)?
Yeah, once I wanted to get rid of the bad stuff.
I wonder about chucking Psalm 8 overboard. How can it be so positive about humans—about me—with its rousing declaration that we—again, me—are “slightly less than divine?”
I am sinner.
I am procrastinator.
I am cynic, critic, and a purveyor of sarcasm.
My faith is weak; my weaknesses are flagrant.
I gaze at the troublesome verses, if only for the daily habit of reading the Bible and still trying to be a good boy.
I could tell you how I was bad yesterday. How I likely will do something shameful or blameful today.
I believe the first part: God is glorious.
I believe the next part about creation: from ancient Eden to Yosemite a few miles from home, God’s wondrous handiwork is revealed.
And sometimes, fleetingly, I think I might even believe—if only because I believe the first two parts of Psalm 8—that I am:
And yet, God knows
it’s hard to believe
how much God loves