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The Psalm of the Great Surprise - Psalm 8

A service plan in a series called "Great Chapters of the Bible" focused on Psalm 8, the "Psalm of the Great Surprise."

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

This worship service is adapted from a service of praise at the Calvin Symposium on Worship in January 2005. While this was a large service in the Fine Arts Center, including many resources, we have designed this service to be accessible for a congregation of any size.

The theme of the service is taken directly from Psalm 8, and the structure of Psalm 8 shapes much of the service. God is the Sovereign Lord whose name is Holy; He is to be praised. He also is to be praised for the attention and honor that he has shown to human beings.

We come to worship the Sovereign Lord whose name is Holy!


Prelude: "All Creatures of Our God and King"
Or: "O Worship the King" [see music notes]

Words of Preparation: [see liturgy notes]

Our world belongs to God-
not to us or earthly powers,
not to demons, fate or chance.
the earth is the Lord's!
God formed the land, the sky and the seas,
making the earth a fitting home
for the plants, animals,
and humans he created.
The world was filled with color, beauty, and variety;
it provided room for
work and play,
worship and service,
love and laughter.
God rested-
and gave us rest.
In the beginning
everything was very good.
O magnify the LORD with me
Let us exalt God's name together!
[from "Our World Belongs to God", art. 7, 9 and Psalm 34:3, NRSV]

*Call to Worship: "O Worship the King" PH 476, PsH 428, RL 2, TH 2, TWC 29, UMH 73 [see music notes]

*The Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Children of God, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


*A Reading of Psalm 8:1-3 [see liturgy notes]

Concluding with:
LORD, our Lord! How majestic is your name in all the earth!

*Creation Sings: "Psalm 19: God's Glory Fills the Heavens" SNC 88


A Reading of Psalm 8:3-4 [see liturgy notes]

The Call to Confession:
When we come into the holy presence of God,
our own humanity is laid bare.
When we stand in the living presence of truth,
our own falsehood is revealed.
People of God, let us acknowledge who we are
and ask our ever-present God to forgive us.
(from TWS 2.1.15)

The Prayer of Confession:

Wondrous God,
who sets suns and moons above us
mountains and valleys beneath us,
and friends and strangers among us:
how often have we tried to hide from your presence,
how seldom have we looked for your creating face
and your fashioning hand!

Wondrous God,
who took upon yourself flesh of our flesh in Jesus our brother,
and being found in human form made the ultimate disclosure of yourself
in the face of Jesus Christ:
how often we have forgotten you,
how seldom have we really loved and followed you!

Wondrous God,
who pours out freely the Holy Spirit:
how often have we ignored your promptings,
how seldom have we asked for your help or accepted your gifts!
(from TWS 2.2.25)

The Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:8-12

Response of Praise: "Te Ensalzaré, Señor," John Bell [see music notes]

A Guide for Grateful Living from Psalm 8:5-9 (see liturgy notes)

Concluding with:
LORD, our Lord! How majestic is your name in all the earth!

The Offertory:

The Offering of Music: "Many and Great" or "How Majestic Is Your Name" or
anthem suggestions. [see music notes]

We Offer our Gifts for..


The Prayer for Illumination:
O God, open our hearts and minds
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that as the Scriptures are read
and your Word is proclaimed,
we may hear what you are saying to us today. Amen
(from TWS 3.1.28)

The Gospel Call to Listen as Children: A Reading of Mark 10:13-16

The Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

The Epistle Reading: A Reading of Hebrews 1:1-4, 2: 5-10

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The Message: "Made Significant"

The Prayer of Application


*Hymn of Response: "God of the Sparrow" PH 272

*Our Affirmation of Faith:
My only comfort in life and in death is
that I am not my own,
but belong--
body and soul,
in life and in death--
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit
assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
[from Heidelberg Cathechism Q&A 1]

The Prayers of the People:
Sung: "Many and Great" st. 1 SNC 83, SFL 94, UMH 148
Sung: "Many and Great" st. 2

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Closing Acclamation of Praise:
LORD, our Lord! How majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens
LORD, our Lord! How majestic is your name in all the earth!

*Closing Hymn/Response: "Let All Things Now Living" PH 554, PsH 453, RN 48, TH 125, TWC 53 [see music notes]

Postlude: "Let All Things Now Living" [see music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

1. All humans long for significance of one sort or another. And most of us assume that our significance is shaped by our achievements. In other words, it is within our hands to determine how much significance we will or will not have in life. In such a culture, Psalm 8 has a great surprise. David declares that God is the one with ultimate significance because his name is majestic, and he has "set his glory above the heavens" (verses 1 and 2). Psalm 19:1-6, like many other passages, reinforces this theme.

2. The surprising twist of this Psalm comes in its explanation of the lot of human beings. When one looks at the universe (see verse 3) and then at human beings, the reasonable conclusion seems to be that we humans, by comparison, have little or no significance (see verse 4), and we may be very surprised that a Sovereign God pays any attention to us. In the development of this sermon, the comparison of some statistics about the size, distance, and age of planets and galaxies to humans, who live for a few years and occupy a very small space, can be very helpful. It would be easy to draw the conclusion: We are small and insignificant! However, this Psalm turns on the surprise that begins with verse 5 which takes the thought pattern in a completely different direction than expected. God has made us "a little lower than heavenly beings," crowned us with "glory and honor," made us "ruler" and put everything under our feet (verse 5 and 6). Surprise!

3. Interpreting this Psalm in the light of the New Testament gives it an even larger surprise. When these humans fell into sin and rebelled against God, he did not leave them to their just destruction, but even sent his Son, who suffered and died for them, that they might be made new. The good news of the Gospel of Christ adds a whole new level of power to Psalm 8.

4. Drawing the proper conclusion from this Psalm can be a delicate matter. Is David's aim to praise human beings (more significant than they seem to be, made in God's image, given dominion, saved by his Son)? Or is his aim to give praise to God, whose name is majestic, and who has given grace to humans that they might serve with him as co-workers? If we take the former conclusion, we could end up in humanism. If we take the latter, we will be God-centered! Note verses 1 and 9 of the Psalm which serve as brackets around the entire Psalm, indicating that David's aim was to give praise to God, not humanity. It will be important that the liturgy surrounding this sermon clearly expresses this praise to God.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA ; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America;
Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

1. The suggestions for prelude based on the hymn tunes LASST UNS ERFREUEN and LYONS can be found in the following resources:
LASST UNS ERFREUEN ["All Creatures of Our God and King"]

Burkhardt, Michael Five Psalm Improvisations Morningstar MSM-10-511 [1997] (E-M)
Callahan, Charles Partita on Lasst uns Erfreuen Morningstar MSM-10-700 [1989] (E-M)
Cherwien, David Interpretations bk. 5 AMSI SP-102 [1985] (D)
Held, Wilbur Hymn Preludes for the Autumn Festivals Concordia 97-5360 [1976] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Easter Hymn Settings Morningstar MSM-10-421 [1999] (E-M)
Kemner, Gerald Fantasies on Nine Familiar Hymn Tunes Augsburg 11-5919 [1990] (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard Sing and Rejoice vol. 2 SMP KK235 [1982] (adaptable for piano, E)
Manz, Paul Ten Chorale Improvisations set 6 Concordia 97-5305 [1975]
Rowley, Alec Choral Preludes based on Famous Hymn Tunes vol. 2
Ashdown [1952] (E-M)

Porter, Rachel Trelstad Day by Day Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)

Dobrinski, Cynthia All Creatures of Our God & King Agape 1737 [1995] (3-5 octaves, M)
Honoré, Jeffrey Alleluia Passacaglia Agape 1552 [1992] (3-5 octaves, E-M)
Hopson, Hal H. All Creatures of Our God & King Agape 1546 [1992] (3-4 octaves, E-M)

LYONS ["O Worship the King"]

Cherwien, David Interpretations bk. 1 AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)


Carter, John Hymns for Piano II Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
Schubert, Myra Give Him Praise Lillenas MB-511 [1983] (M-D)


Hopson, Hal H. Variations on "O Worship The King" Van Ness 4184-05 [1985]
(3-4 octaves, E-M)
Larson, Lloyd O Worship the King Agape 1322 [1988] (2-5 octaves with organ, E-M)
McChesney, Kevin O Worship the King Beckenhorst BP207 [2001] (3-5 octaves, level 3)

2. Alternative harmonizations for "O Worship the King" can be found in the following resources:

LYONS ["O Worship the King"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

Carlson, J. Bert Let It Rip! At the Piano vol. 2 Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

3. The Response of Praise "Te Ensalzaré, Señor," written by John L. Bell for SATB voices, solo, Congregation, piano, flute and optional trumpet is published by GIA G-5156 [1999] (E-M).

4. You may wish to have an instrumental offertory or a choral offertory based on the theme of the service. We suggest:

LACQUIPARLE ["Many and Great"]

Arnatt, Ronald The Bristol Collection vol. 2 Flammer HF-5078 [1975] (E-M)
Diemer, Emma Lou(1993) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany
Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
Farlee, Robert Buckley Many and Great Augsburg 11-11033 [2000] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. Hymns Settings for Organ Augsburg Fortress
ISBN 0-8006-7498-7 [2002] (E-M)



Hayes, Mark Lord Be Glorified vol 2 Word 301 0063 318 [1992] (M)


Butler, Eugene How Excellent Is Thy Name Bourne B205765-358 [1967]
(SATB with keyboard, includes sections of Psalm 8 as accompanied choral reading, E-M)

Larson, Lloyd Praise to the Creator Richmond MI-241 [1985] (SATB with keyboard, E-M)

Fettke, Tom The Majesty and Glory Of Your Name Word 3010122160 [1979]
(SATB with keyboard, E-M)

5. Alternative harmonizations for the closing hymn "Let All Things Now Living" can be found in the following resources:

ASH GROVE/THE ASH GROVE ["Let All Things Now Living"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

Burkhardt, Michael As Though the Whole Creation Cried Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Eggert, John Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ vol. 2 CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John Hymn Harmonizations for Organ bk. 3 Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

Organ, Anne Krentz Let It Rip! At the Piano Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The organ postlude suggestions "Let All Things Now Living" can be found in the following resources:

ASH GROVE/THE ASH GROVE ["Let All Things Now Living"]

Cherwien, David Triptych on The Ash Grove Augsburg 11-10971 [1999] (M-D)
Held, Wilbur Those Wonderful Welsh set 2 Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992]
(adaptable for piano, E)
Schulz, Christine Variations on The Ash Grove Morningstar MSM-10-708 [1995] (M)
Sedio, Mark Recessional on Sent Forth by God's Blessing Concordia 97-6864 [2000] (E-M)


Leavitt, John How Sweet the Sound CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)


Moklebust, Cathy Let All Things Now Living Choristers Guild CGB-170 [1995]
(3-5 octaves, D)

Liturgy Notes:

1. The opening Words of Preparation are intended to create an atmosphere in which God is recognized as sovereign creator and before whom we work, play, serve, and worship. These words can be read by the primary worship leader or another reader. We suggest they are read clearly, dramatically, and without any introductory announcement or comments.

2. Readings from portions of Psalm 8 are included at several places in this liturgy. You may want to take these readings from the pew edition of the Bible. Or, you may want a more modern translation for a fresh reading, such as The Message or Calvin Seerveld's translation in Voicing God's Psalms (Eerdmans, 2005). These readings can be presented by one reader or a group of readers who each take different portions of it, or the entire congregation may read it in unison. However it is done, in three instances the reading should end with a unison reading of the concluding line of the Psalm which serves as a doxology. This line becomes an exclamation which significantly forms the spirit of this liturgy.

3. We have designed the closing part of the liturgy to provide a praise-response to the Word and its message. The songs, the affirmation of faith, and the acclamation of praise are all to be hearty expressions of praise to God.