The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 19, 2019
In late summer 1945, Joe DiMaggio, then baseball’s greatest player, had just returned home after serving abroad in World War II. The day before he rejoined the Yankees, DiMaggio decided to sneak into Yankee Stadium to enjoy a game like any other fan. Joe DiMaggio Sr. brought along with him his four-year-old son, Joe Jr.
Despite his best efforts to keep a low profile, one fan recognized him and then another. Soon throughout the stadium people were chanting, “Joe, Joe, Joe DiMaggio!” DiMaggio glanced at his son to see how he was handling the tribute. Joe Jr.’s eyes were big with happy wonder as he exclaimed, “Wow, Daddy! Everyone knows me!”
DiMaggio Jr. made a childish mistake and assumed that all the glory that afternoon belonged to him rather than his father. Often we adults, not so innocently, make the same mistake with respect to our Father in heaven. A part of us wants to believe life is all about us and our being glorified when in reality it’s all about our Heavenly Father and His being glorified. We worship each week to set our heads straight and to focus upon the One who should be acclaimed first and foremost.
What does it mean to worship? It is to take a good look at what God is worth, and give Him what He’s worth. To worship is to do justice to God’s “worthship”!
Our great God is worth our joining all creation in giving Him the honor and praise that belong to Him.
Today’s Psalm urges every creature in heaven and on earth to glorify God. In its first half, starting at verse 1, the Psalm looks at what is above us and commands, “Praise the Lord from the heavens;” and in its second half, starting at verse 7, it looks at what is around us and commands, “Praise the Lord from the earth!” In its first half, it calls on angels, the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky and the “waters above” (that is, the clouds) to glorify God; in the second, it calls on sea monsters, wild animals, cattle, birds, fruit trees, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy winds, mountains, hills and human beings, male and female, old and young, to glorify God. Though such creations are glorious in themselves, each of them is to magnify God supremely, “for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” God’s glory surpasses the glory of all their glories.
In worship we declare that God is great – in fact, greater than every other great thing and all other great things combined. We even declare that God is greater than we can conceive or put into words.
All other glorious things owe their glory to the Father of all glories. Thus, all glorious things, rightly appreciated, point beyond themselves to the still greater God on whom they depend. God’s glory is a greater glory above theirs.
Thus, God deserves our priority effort and our best effort in giving due honor and adulation.
Of course, God is so great that we can never give Him all the adulation and adoration He merits. Our powers of mind are too limited and weak. For that matter, we even lack the capacity to take in the full grandeur of His magnificence. Let me try an analogy.
Paul Crowther, professor of astrophysics from the University of Sheffield in England, recently announced that his research team had caught sight of the brightest star in the universe discovered thus far. A welder’s helmet couldn’t enable us to face the blazing light from this giant. Its mass is 265 times that of our sun; and its luminescence, 10 million times brighter than that of our sun whose brilliance is so overwhelming that to look at it long is to risk blindness. This star, called R136a1, makes ours look like a dying ember on the family BBQ.
The radiance of R136a1 gives us a faint suggestion of God’s glory. The Bible in 1 Tim. 6:16 tells us that God is “he alone who…dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” God is too much for us. Fully to apprehend His greatness is beyond our reach. While we can know God truly, we can never know Him completely. While we can praise Him with our words, He is always greater than we can say. And even our highest worship and best theologizing, for all the awe and wonder they express, fall short in capturing the immensity of God’s sublimity. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem In Memoriam, prayed thus: “Our little systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of thee; and thou, O Lord, art more than they.”
Though God is always “more”, He nevertheless delights in our coming to know Him and His magnificence better and better.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, a children’s book series whose depths of wisdom are more than a match for most adults, Aslan – a great lion who symbolizes Christ – and Lucy – a little girl who loves Him dearly – meet again after several years. Lucy exclaims, “Aslan, you are bigger now!” Aslan shakes His head and replies, “Lucy, that’s because you are older. You see, Lucy, every year you grow, you find me bigger.” Christ is infinite and perfect in glory, and thus never grows; but our powers to see Him can. Many of us now see the Lord more clearly than we used to; and those of us who know Him best realize there’s no end to the discovery of His greatness and goodness.
May we keep growing – as we regularly take in the awesome wonder of God by worshipping Him, studying His word, and serving Him in the Spirit – and thereby are surprised over and over again by how glorious He is!