Psalm 8; 1 Chronicles 9:1–34; Acts 11:11–24

Psalm 8: This famous psalm begins–and ends–by celebrating God’s majestic name. Once again we are reminded of the supreme importance of names. And God’s name is above all. So majestic and sacred that it is unutterable for the Jewish people even today.  Something to ponder as we so casually toss off the “OMG’s” that litter our world.

The psalmist celebrates the heavens above us: “When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, / the moon and the stars You fixed firm,” (4) We often talk about the work of God’s hands, but here the psalmist notes the “work of you fingers,” implying great yet delicate dexterity. One can imagine looking up at the filigree of the starry sky and knowing that such magnificent detail visible to us must be the work of agile and creative fingers.

At the very center of the psalm is its awesome heart that ponders the relationship between Creator and his highest creation: humankind. “What is man that You should note him, / and the human creature, that You pay him heed?” (5)  And when we look up at night at the starry sky in its infinite size and grandeur, we,  realize we are but a speck in creation. Yet, God is interested in us above everything else in creation, and he cares passionately for us. He loves us.

But we must never forget the order of the relationship: “You make him little less than the gods, / with glory and grandeur You crown him?” We are indeed God’s greatest creation but when our pride causes us to think we are higher than the little-g gods (here heavenly beings such as angels, I think), the the order of creation is upset and it all comes crashing down around our ears. Yet, it is this pride that is our most common–and greatest–sin. We must remember our place within creation. Unlike God, we do not transcend it.

1 Chronicles 9:1–34: Our Chronicler, having completed what is effectively a genealogical census, brings us to his present day. He basically dispenses with the entire history of Judah with the simple and flat statement, “Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.” (1b). But now “some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh” have returned to live in Jerusalem and were counted and we learn that 1760 men were priests, “qualified for the work of the service of the house of God.” (13).

Then, there are the Levitical families, who provide support for the priests. Some are gatekeepers, the security force, an office that “David and the seer Samuel established them in their office of trust.” (22) Their duties included counting the holy utensils, and “they would spend the night near the house of God; for on them lay the duty of watching, and they had charge of opening it every morning.” (27) Others mixed spices and made bread. Then come the singers, “living in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.” (33)

I think our author does a fine job reminding us that there is far more to operating a temple than just the priestly office. Many others have a supporting role to play and there is great honor in these other essential duties. Even as today, pastor is not the only important role in the church. He or she depends on the willing work of many others. I’d like to think that this passage at least caused Luther to reflect on the issue that and other vocations beyond priest or pastor are equally honorable–and essential.

 Acts 11:1–24: After baptizing Cornelius and his family, Peter returns to Jerusalem, where “the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (3) Peter once again covers the chain of events in great detail. (And I think Luke does this to remind us of just how profound a sea change this baptism was.) Peter reminds his critics that it is the Holy Spirit who is in charge: “ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning.” (15) and he makes the clinching argument: “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” (17) 

This is something for us to remember when we observe other Christians engaging in practices such as glossalia that we might find off-putting or even, we think, heretical. Would that our reaction be the same as those Jewish Christians at Jerusalem: “ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” (18).

And here we have it: from here on out Luke will be focusing on how the Good News was brought to the Gentiles.  Luke pulls his camera back to a wide angle view of the Mediterranean world that was now occupied by Christians who had fled Jerusalem after Stephen’s martyrdom. “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.” (21) Interesting, isn’t it, how those who scattered in fear of their lives “infect” the new places they have come to with the Good News.

The church at Jerusalem is excited to hear this and it sends its first missionary, Barnabas, to Antioch. Would that we respond similarly to such good news. And it is because of those before us that brought Good news to the southern hemisphere and to Asia and Africa that we are now witnessing the greatest growth of the church in those places–just as the early church had its greatest growth outside Jerusalem.

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