With the weather finally taking a turn for the better, and hopefully lasting for a while, I begin with a joke that fits the season. Maybe some of you have heard it before, but it’s worth retelling…especially since there are only so many jokes appropriate to share in a church pulpit.
“One day, Moses and Jesus are out playing golf. Late in their round, they come to a short par 3 over a pond. Moses has the honor, so he steps up to the tee with an iron in his hand. Then he takes a big backswing and hits the ball straight into the ground. Sure enough, the ball dribbles right into the pond.
All of a sudden, however, the water in the pond parts and Moses’ golf ball rolls right through the bottom of the pond and up onto the green, twenty feet away from the hole. Jesus looks over at Moses and says, “Hey, nice shot!”
So Jesus steps up to the tee, pulls out an iron and takes a nice, big swing. His ball shoots straight ahead off the club and on a line right toward the front of the pond. The next thing you know, Jesus’s ball bounces on top of the water and skips right up to the green. And it stops rolling ten feet from the hole. “Pretty nice ball yourself!” Moses says, looking over at Jesus.
The two men put their clubs back in their bags and they start to head toward the bridge over the water. But they only take a few steps before an older gentleman steps up to the tee and calls over to Moses and Jesus. “Hey, do you guys mind if I join you and play along?”
Moses and Jesus look at each other and shrug their shoulders. “Sure, go ahead and hit.”
The older man grabs an iron from his bag, steps up to his ball and takes a nice, easy swing. When he hits the ball, it pops straight up in the air and lands with a splash in the middle of the pond.
Before anyone can look away, though, the ball jumps out of the water, ricochets off an overhanging branch in a nearby tree, caroms off a rock next to the sand trap, and rolls all the way across the green and into the cup for a hole-in-one.
Jesus looks at Moses for a moment and then turns and looks over at the old man. “You know, that was a little flashier than what I expected, but nice shot, Dad…!”
“Flashy.” Webster’s Dictionary defines the word as an adjective meaning “dazzling or bright,” and sometimes even “gaudy.” Which fits with some of the images that come to mind with the word “flashy.” Like the brand new, shiny red sports car with the convertible top rolled down darting in and out of traffic. Or athletes and actors dressed in shiny suits and eye-popping jewelry, showing up for public appearances with dark sunglasses even in the middle of the night.
Or people from all walks of life who highlight their hair in fluorescent colors with large and vivid tattoos.
All those things might be considered “flashy.” But flashy is not a word I typically associate with God. God works hard to be loving and compassionate and powerful and graceful and eternal and a whole host of other things. But I doubt God tries to be flashy. Projecting and maintaining a flamboyant image for the people in our world is probably not something God prioritizes on God’s list.
Yet, if we really take the time to stop and look around at the world on all sides of us, “flashy” could be a pretty good word to describe God’s creation. When you’re driving on a highway in the middle of a summer vacation getaway and you pull off at one of those scenic viewing areas by the side of the road. Stop and take a look out at the vast forests of trees, the mountains towering high above the clouds in the distance, the water shimmering and dancing in the light of the sun, and the boundless, expansive fields bursting with flowers and plants and animals. The beauty of our world is so easy to pass by that we rarely take the time to stop and consider God’s handiwork. But when we do, the sheer abundance of God’s earth can be breathtaking and dazzling.
Or spend some time sitting on your deck or lying in your front yard this summer just before you go to bed. On a cool and clear night, look way up into the sky and spend a few moments watching the moon and the stars. Pick out the constellations, Big and Little Dipper, Orion, and whatever others you can find. Keep your eyes peeled for stars that shoot across the sky like a flash of light. Grab a pair of binoculars and scan slowly from one side of the horizon to the other until you have seen everything in between. Then try to imagine the sheer size of our universe and the fascinating potential for worlds beyond our own. God’s universe stays alive long after the sun goes down in ways that are bright and flamboyant and downright gaudy.
“O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” While “flashy” may not have an equivalent in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, I think the Psalm writer had the general concept of the word in mind when he or she wrote the glorious hymn we know as Psalm 8.
More than anything else, the writer of Psalm 8 tells us, invites us, begs us, urges us to behold the flashiness of God. Perhaps it was David who wrote the psalm in his mind as he stood out in the middle of a green pasture somewhere herding sheep over the lush Galilean countryside. Perhaps the Psalm writer was someone else; some unknown, unnamed person who remembered the stories told to them by their parents and grandparents. Stories about a God who plunged into the chaos that blurred the beginning of time and separated the heavens from the earth, giving light and life to human beings and plants and animals. Then at each stage along the way, God stopped and stepped back and looked around and offered one of history’s more profound understatements…”this is good.”
Whoever write Psalm 8 had profound respect and admiration for the goodness of God poured out in colors and shapes and textures and sights and sounds and smells all around us. Standing in the midst of God’s bright and dazzling creation, the Psalm writer gave voice to the kind of praise that somehow seems like the only appropriate and humble response one can offer in the presence of the world’s beauty.
But the amazing and wonderful thing about Psalm 8 is that it doesn’t just give praise to God. It also gives praise to humanity. While addressing God the Psalm writer offers us the assurance that we have been made only a “little lower than God, and we have been crowned by God with glory and honor.” Moreover, God has “given us dominion over the works of God’s hands…the sheep and the oxen and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea.”
When God made trees and flowers, God said, “this is good.” When God made horses and dogs and lions and whales, God said, “this too is good.” And then the time came for God to make human beings and when God was done, God said, “this is very good.” Yes, you and I, we are made in God’s image, created by God and created for God.
So the next time you stop along the highway or lie down in the yard and look up at the stars, spend a few moments reveling in the flashiness of god’s creation. Giving praise and thanks for God whose name and whose deeds are majestic in all the earth.
And then when you finish speaking and singing your praises, take another moment and listen quietly. Because the wondrous God of the universe will be looking back in your direction. Giving thanks and praise for each one of you. We are God’s children…the flashiest achievement in all of creation. Amen.