The Beauty of God
Epiphany 3A Psalm 27:4
Today I would like you to learn a pivotal Scriptural verse. Psalm 27:4. There are four phrases in this verse.
From King David: “One thing I seek …to live in the presence of the Lord… all the days of my life, …and to behold God's beauty.”
Psalm 27:4 was written by King David. David wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord, in the temple, in the sanctuary all the days of his life and behold the beauty of God. In the New Testament, we come to realize that God is not confined to living in a house of worship, is not confined to temple or a sanctuary. The beauty of God goes way beyond a physical building called a temple.
So I translate this verse from Psalm 27:4: “One thing I seek…to live in the presence of the Lord … all the days of my life…and to behold God's beauty.”
Could you repeat the verse with me? In four phrases.
“One thing I seek: ONE THING I SEEK.
“To live in the presence of the Lord. TO LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.
all the days of my life; ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE.
“And to behold God's beauty. AND TO BEHOLD GOD'S BEAUTY.
Let’s say the whole verse together: “One thing I seek, to live in the presence of the Lord all the days of my life, and to behold God's beauty.”
You have learned the Bible verse. Psalm 27:4.
The one thing that I need. The one thing that you need. The one thing that the world needs is to have the beauty of the Lord living inside of us. That is the one thing that I need, that you need, that the world around us needs. To live in the presence of God all the days of our lives and to see God’s beauty and to hear God’s beauty and to smell God’s beauty and to taste God’s beauty and to touch God’s beauty, the beauty of the Lord who is all around us. (As one preaches this sentence, point to the eye, ear, nose, tongue and finger.)
In a world in which we are so busy dusting plastic flowers that we don’t have the time to smell the roses; in a world in which the glitter and glamour of the neon lights is so bright that we cannot see the stars; in a world in which violence and brutality rules so many hearts rather than the beauty of God; in this kind of word, I need, you need, and the world around us needs the beauty of the Lord living inside of our souls.
That is what we need. Just as we need food to nourish our physical bodies, so also we need beauty to nourish our inner souls. As much as you need food for your body, you need beauty for your soul. God gives us what is beautiful to enliven our souls, fill our souls, and energize our souls. .
Each one of us has different experiences of God’s beauty and different appreciations of this beauty. Beauty. Those inexpressible and indefinable moments that deeply touch our hearts, our minds, and all our senses. Those moments that melt our hearts when we feel the presence of God in what is beautiful. Each one of us will tell different stores of when we have heard beauty, seen beauty, smelled beauty, tasted beauty and touched beauty…when beauty has touched our inner souls, when God has touched us. Yes, each of us has different stories of beauty.
In a world in which we are so busy dusting plastic flowers that we don’t have time to smell the roses, this verse is more than needed.
Let’s attempt to say Psalm 27:4 together: “One thing I seek …to live in the presence of the Lord… all the days of my life … and to behold God's beauty.”
(1) We behold God’s beauty through our eyes.
Where do you see most clearly the beauty of God? What is your story? Is it the sunsets? The sunrises? The flowers? Your garden? Where is it that most touches your hearts? When you are overwhelmed and silenced by the beauty before you. Speechless. Breathless.
During a sunset? (show powerpoints of the visual images)
When you stand before the waves of the ocean?
Or at Crystal Mountain overlooking Mount Rainier?
When I see Mount Rainier, I see the beauty of God’s presence. I pause at this very place every time I go skiing on a clear day and worship and thank the Lord for his beauty. I am overwhelmed. Silenced. In that moment, like so many others, I pause and praise. …the living God.
Others of you see God’s beauty in the smallest of things like the intricate petals of flowers…
and the intricate, miniscule design of a the veins of a leaf.
Yes, we are invited to live every day in the presence of the living God and to behold the beauty of God that we see with our eyes.
Many people also see the presence of God in art. Art that touches us and melts our hearts into a puddle of reverence.
Such as the moment when I stood in the presence of Michelangelo’s Pieta.
This, for me, is the most beautiful piece of art ever created by human hands. I felt God’s presence interpreted through this piece of art. I was speechless. Breathless. Silent before its beauty.
The same is true of Michelangelo’s David.
The words of the Psalmist ring in my heart, “One thing I seek: …to live in the presence of the Lord …all the days of my life …and to behold his beauty.” That is what I need. That is what you need. That is what the world around us needs. To have the beauty of the Lord living inside of us.
(2) We hear the beauty of God through our ears. God not only comes to us through our visual senses but the presence of the living God comes to us through our auditory senses.
All of us are different. Each one of us has different visual experiences and different auditory experiences which are filled with beauty and the presence of the living God.
For me, when I hear Andrew Lloyd Webber’s PIE JESUS, I hear the presence of God. I am not sure when I first heard the PIE JESU sung by Sarah Brightman. But every time I hear this piece of music, my heart stops and pauses …becomes silent … to listen carefully…so that the music and the poetry enter my soul and sing.
The words are magnificent.
“Pie Jesus.” Latin. Meaning: Merciful Jesus. You will hear those two words very often, Pie Jesus. Merciful Jesus.
The next Latin phrase means, “Who takes away the sin of the world.”
And then you will hear the word, “Requiem.” The word, “requiem,” means peace or rest. Grant us peace.
Then you will hear the choir sing the words, “Agnus Dei.” Which mean, Lamb of God. Who takes away the sin of the world.
Requiem. Grant us everlasting peace.
“Merciful Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us everlasting peace.”
http://www.last.fm/music/Sarah+Brightman/_/Pie+Jesu On the upper right corner of the page, click the arrow to listen to this classic. Close your eyes and just listen.
(Play recording THE VERY BEST OF ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, Pie Jesu, with Sarah Brightman.)
What are the most beautiful, God filled sounds that you have ever heard, where you hear the beauty of the living God? Where you behold God’s beauty, where you are aware of God’s beauty?
Perhaps in the first cries of a new born baby?
The sounds of rushing water in a mountain stream?
The words, “I love you.”
Can we say Psalm 27:4 together: “One thing I seek, …to live in the presence of the Lord… all the days of my life, …and to behold God's beauty.”
(3) Our God given senses bring us into the presence of God. What are the most beautiful fragrances that the Lord God allows you to take in?
In the children’s sermon today, I had each child take a sprig of cedar and twist it and break it and rub it in their fingers and smell the fragrances of cedar, of God’s creation?
Have you ever put your nose to a lilac bush in the spring?
To a rose in the summer? Carnations? Lilies?
Have you ever squeezed herbs between your fingers and smelled the scents of mint, and basil and rosemary and thyme?
Have you stepped outside after a spring rain and smelled the powerful smell of ozone?
Have you smelled the sweet fragrances of freshly baked cookies as you come into the house?
Have you uncorked a bottle of wine and delighted in the bouquet of the wine as its fragrancefilled the room?
In these exquisite fragrances, we delight in the very presence of God.
(4) God’s creation of taste bring us more joy to life.
What are the tastes that you love the best? The flavors?
Cherry, lime, root beer?
In your imagination, would you bite into a fresh apple? Can you savor the taste?
Suck on a sweet orange?
Would you put a strawberry into your mouth and taste is succulence?
(5) Touch. What are the touches which are most vivid and precious to you?
The soft skin of a newborn baby?
A tender touch by your husband or wife saying, “I love you.”
A touch by a friend on your shoulder as you grieve.
Each of these give us glimpses of the face of God. .
The Lord God uses all our senses. As one modern poet, John Denver, wrote and sang:
“You fill up my senses
Like a night in the forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again.”
We ask God to come and fill up our senses.
When we live in the presence of God, we see beauty. When we see beauty, we see God.
There are two more places that we see and experience the beauty of God.
When you see and experience love, God’s love, Jesus’ love lived out among people and between human beings.
These stories of love are infinite. There are as many of stories and examples of human love. Tutors who show up at Kidreach every week to teach kids. Lois and Wayne Buckingham. Paul and Marjorie Wesen. Paul and Marjory and their care for their adult daughter Karen. Janice and her care for her mother Carol Leinbarger. Al Huelle caring for Shirley Huelle. Bernie cares for Sue. We all care for Suzie Carter. Love that suffers with and for another. It is beautiful to be part of a community of love.
In Webber’s musical, LES MISERABLE, the last line in the operetta is by the main character, Jean Valjean, as he sings in his high tenor voice, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
To the very center of my core being, I believe those words are true: to love another person is to see the face of God.
Where else do we see the beauty of God? Daily with our eyes and ears and nose and tongue and touch, and daily when we see love between human beings. We also the beauty of Godwhen we see Jesus. .
Jesus, our beautiful Savior. How I love the hymn, BEAUTIFUL SAVIOR. It is my favorite hymn which I learned by heart in childhood. It is deep in my soul. And Jesus, when you realize the truth about Jesus, you are overwhelmed. Silenced. Mesmerized. Like watching a sunset or hearing Pie Jesu. There is a beauty to Jesus that captures our hearts like a sunset captures our hearts or a piece of music captures our hearts.
Jesus, beautiful savior who spoke the most beautiful words ever voiced by a human being. Jesus’ magnificent words ring through the centuries with their beauty:
“Love one another.”
“God is love and whoever lives in love, lives in God.”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Forgive one another seventy times seven.”
“Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Beautiful words. The most beautiful words ever spoken by a human being.
His death on the cross. The most beautiful example of love Jesus, beautiful Savior. Jesus’ death on the cross was the greatest example of beautiful love. “There is no greater love than this, than a person lays down his life for us.” Jesus, our beautiful savior, died on the cross to forgive us all.
Jesus, beautiful Savior. It is beyond beautiful that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Jesus, beautiful Savior. “What eye can see or ear hear or mind imagine that good things that the Lord has prepared for us in the future.”
I have come to love that Bible verse of Psalm 27:4, One thing I seek…to live in the presence of the Lord all the days of my life…and to behold God's beauty. That is what I need. That is what you need. That is what the world needs. To have the beauty of God living inside of us. Amen.
(As with almost all sermons in my later years as a pastor, this sermon was given by memory and without notes. When teaching homiletics, I always encourage pastors to write their sermons and then spend an additional three hours learning and memorizing the flow and intricate phasing of the sermon, so that it can be given directly from the heart. The power of the sermon grows immeasurably when it is memorized, not in a wooden, word for word, way; but when the flow of the ideas and phrases are embedded deeply in one’s mind and heart.)
Welcome to Grace Lutheran Church. We are pleased that the Lord God has brought you to this holy place to sing God’s praise and listen to God’s Word. May your heart be open to the Word of the Lord this day, so that you may behold the beauty of God all around you. In the skies, clouds, mountains, sunrises, sunsets, and stars. In the eyes of those you love. In the gestures of gentle compassion. In Jesus, our beautiful Savior. In the grand and glorious eternal future that is more beautiful than any human mind can imagine. Pause. Look. Listen. And you will see the beauty of God within you and around you.
Prayer of the Day: Lord God, the source of all grandeur, on this day we come before your presence to behold your radiant glory and to see your everlasting beauty. The heavens shine with your transcendent glory; the earth radiates your magnificent beauty. May we see your beauty all around us and especially in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
First Lesson: A Responsive Reading
Pastor - One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Ps 27:4
Congregation: Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Ps 50:2
P: Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ps 96:6 -
C: In that day the Lord of hosts will be a garland of glory; the Lord God will be a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people; Isa 28:5
P: You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isa 62:3 -
C: Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection; you were full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Eze 28:12
P: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Isa 52:7
C: Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight. 1Pe 3:4
P: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Gospel Lesson John 1:1-5, 14-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.