I am surrounded was the suggested title of a homily for Trinity Sunday. In our Sunday worship we seldom hear a homily or sermon opening the text of the Psalm. Once again, the folks at WorkingPreacher.org are present to help, exploring this text for preacher and hearer alike.
Another sermon derives simply from the poetic structure of the psalm. A modern, Western reading of the psalm tends to focus on the question “What are humans that you are mindful of them?” as an outburst of existential anxiety from an “I” alone in the midst of overwhelming vastness. There might be something in that, but the structure of the psalm puts the singer in a different place. Psalm 8 (NRSV) has a rather clear concentric structure:
A O Lord, our Sovereign… (verse 1a)
B You have set your glory… (verses 1b-2)
C When I look… (verses 3-4)
B’ Yet, you have made… (verses 5-8)
A’ O Lord, our Sovereign (verse 9)
The A/B/C/B’/A’ structure is, in part at least, grammatical or rhetorical, comprised of sections introduced by Lord/you/I/you/Lord.
The psalm begins and ends with the outburst of congregational praise of God’s majestic name (A/A’). Within those verses comes the praise of God’s particular works (overturning foes in B; blessing humans in B’), and, at the center, the wondering awe of the poet (C). Now, instead of an isolated “me,” viewing a distant universe in existential anxiety, “I” (C) stand surrounded by the gracious and protecting works of God (B/B’) and the congregation gathered to sing God’s praise (A/A’).
Fred Gaiser, Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Read the entire post: WorkingPreacher.org. (select Psalm tab)
In future posts “NJPS” will be used to refer to the Jewish Publication Society 1999 Tanakh Translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both the translation and the study notes for Psalm 8 can be found here: Psalm 8 NJPS. Professor Gaiser refers to NJPS in his essay. As you will encounter again, the NJPS verse designations vary slightly from the NRSV verse designations.