The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger

IT'S ALL IN THE PERSPECTIVE

Delivered 6/6/04
Text: Psalm 8
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"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

You are familiar with the name Russell Schweikart? One of our astronauts. He flew on Apollo IX. After he returned to earth from his magnificent space adventure, he wrote, "[You see] the earth not as something big...[but] as a small thing out there. And the contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and the black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through, and the size of it, the significance of it. It is so small and fragile and such a precious little spot in that universe that you can block it out with your thumb, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you - all of history, and music and poetry and art and death and birth and love, all the tears, joy, games, all of it on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb."(1) It is all a matter of perspective, is it not?

Truth be told, our lives are lived on the basis of our perspectives. The graduates that we honor today have a perspective that can no doubt be described as on top of the world. And why not? They are celebrating a significant accomplishment. But soon that perspective will change, and life will be seen through the nervous eyes of a college freshman or from the bottom rung on the job ladder. We all see different things at different times - it is all in the perspective.

A wealthy oil baron once commissioned Picasso to paint a portrait of his wife. When the work was completed, the baron was shocked to see the image that had been created. "Why that looks nothing like my wife! You should have painted her the way she really is!"

Picasso took a deep breath and said, "I'm not sure what that would be."

Without hesitation, the oil baron pulled out his wallet and removed a photograph of his wife saying, "There, you see, this is how she really is!"

Picasso, bending over, looked at it and replied, "She is rather small and flat, isn't she?"(2)

Perspective. As you see from this morning's bulletin, today is Trinity Sunday on the church calendar, the only Sunday set aside during the entire year to honor a doctrine. As you Bible scholars know, the word "trinity" is found nowhere in scripture, but the doctrine of the Trinity comes from a faithful reading of that scripture with an attempt to give a reasonably adequate understanding of God. We find the creator God, making an entire universe out of nothing but a spoken word. We see God as redeemer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh. We see God as sustainer in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. "God in three persons, Blessed Trinity," as the hymnwriter has it. It is all in the perspective.

Today, pulpits around the world will try to explain the mystery of the Trinity - how can one God be "three persons?" Some will use the illustration of H2O - depending on the circumstances we find those same elements as either water or ice or steam - same composition of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, but three different ways of experiencing those elements. Or I might say to Christie, I am husband; to my children, I am father; to you I am pastor and friend. Same person, but from different perspectives. None of those examples is exactly accurate in explaining this mystery of the Trinity, but suffice it to say, no matter WHAT we say about God, it will never be enough. What we DO say, will depend upon our perspective. Beyond that, we can let it go with the words of the Psalmist, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Perspective. A man had an awful day at work. Everything had gone wrong. There was one interruption after another, and he was never able to complete his work.

When he entered the door at home that evening, he knew that his wife must have had a similar day. You could see it on her face. So, to set the process straight, he began. "I have had the worst day of my life; it's been bad news, bad news, bad news, bad news. I don't know what kind of a day you've had, but if at all possible, can you share some good news with me?"

The wife, a thoughtful and loving person, considered his request for a moment, and then said, "Of course I can. You know we have six beautiful children, right?" He agreed. "Well," she said, "five of them didn't break a leg today."

Perspective. From what perspective will you view life when you go out from here today? It WILL make a difference.

  • Through the eyes of the world, it was another brutal murder in a brutal existence; through the eyes of faith, it was God so loving the world that he gave his only son to pay the penalty for our sin.
  • Through the eyes of the world, he was another religious fanatic bent on terrorism; through the eyes of faith, Saul of Tarsus could become the greatest missionary the church has ever known.
  • Through the eyes of the world, those poor and hungry and sick and imprisoned are a nuisance; through the eyes of faith, they are an opportunity to meet Christ.
  • Through the eyes of the world, we are too small and powerless to make a difference; through the eyes of faith, we know that when we walk out of here, we do not walk out alone - we go with each other, and our God goes with us, and that IS power.
  • Through the eyes of the world, you and I are unbelievably insignificant - just one of six-billion-plus; through the eyes of faith, we are incredibly important - God knows us so intimately that even the hairs of our heads are numbered (a figure that changes by the hour for some of us).


With what eyes will you leave this place this morning? But before you leave, come to the table. That might make a difference. Remember, it is all in the perspective.

Amen!

1. Earth's Answer (New York: Harper and Row)

2. Bradford Keeney, Everyday Soul, (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), p. 30

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