November 2, 2014
Thought for Meditation:
I am flabbergasted by the widespread refusal across this land to think big about a loving God. Like nervous thoroughbreds being guided to the starting gate at Churchill Downs, many Christians bray, bridle, and bolt at the revelation of God’s all-embracing love in Jesus Christ. Brennan Manning, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”
Crowned With Glory and Honor
Psalm 8; Romans 5:6-11
I invite you to look at the screens for a moment. (#1) This is the Milky Way. We’ve all heard about it and probably seen pictures of it. Maybe some of you have studied astronomy and understand it. However, I doubt that anyone can really comprehend how big the Milky Way is. Let’s take a closer look at the skies.
(#2) Here are the planets in our solar system. Imagine a life-sized model of a human being, even a model twice the size of a normal person. You wouldn’t even be able to see it on this scale. A couple of years ago scientists decided that Pluto was too small to be a planet. Now it is a dwarf planet. But if Pluto filled the whole screen you still wouldn’t be able to see a person.
(#3) Here are the planets compared to our Sun. You can barely see the Earth. Even Saturn and Jupiter are dwarfed by our Sun.
(#4) Notice the size of our Sun compared to Arcturus. It is tiny. Jupiter is only one pixel on this – about a pin prick. Earth is invisible on this scale.
(#5) In this picture Jupiter is invisible. The Sun is one pixel – the poke of a pin. Arcturus is dwarfed by Antares. This is all part of the Milky Way. There are countless other galaxies and even bigger stars. How big do you feel right now? Does anyone feel important?
How many of you ever saw the movie Toy Story? It’s a wonderful movie – lots of fun. In one of my favorite scenes Woody, (played by Tom Hanks) was talking to Buzz Lightyear (played by Tim Allen). Woody is a toy cowboy and he is trying to convince Buzz Lightyear that he was only a toy. “You’re not a space ranger! You’re an action figure – a child’s plaything.” Buzz was convinced that he was a space ranger. He was real. He was important. He was going to save the world from evil. To prove it he tries to fly. He launches himself into the air, and sort of flies, but eventually crashes to the ground. Buzz realizes that Woody was right. He hangs his head in shame. “I’m just a stupid, little, insignificant toy.”
I have a sense that there are times that most of us feel like that. We know what it is like to feel insignificant and unimportant. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are humans that you pay any attention to them” (Psalm 8:3-4). God, who am I that you even notice me?
The world we live in, our culture, doesn’t help this any. Think about what our culture values – youth, physical abilities, beauty. Who gets paid more, a teacher who helps students learn, who impacts the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of children throughout her career, or the athlete who can run faster and jump higher, can catch a football or hit a baseball. A few years ago LeBron James left Cleveland to go down to Miami. I remember being stunned by his statement that he was willing to take less money so that he could be on a team that would have a better chance to win a championship – less money meant more than $20 million a year. That is more than most teachers or social workers will make in a lifetime. If we try to get our sense of self-worth from the world we are going to struggle. (6:30)
David was aware of this struggle. As a boy he was a shepherd. He spent nights with his sheep out sleeping under the stars. I doubt that David had any idea how big Antares is or how many billions of stars are in the sky. Yet he was very aware that compared to the stars humans are insignificant. “When I look at the heavens, the moon and the stars, who am I that God would think about me and pay attention to me, much less that God would actually care for me?”
“Yet…” I like that little word – yet. It’s a conjunction that suggests something unexpected. This is what you ought to get, yet this is what God actually does for you. This is what you deserve, yet this is what God really thinks about you. “Yet you have made humans a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” We are not God. Compared to God we are nothing. We are insignificant, yet in the hierarchy of creation God puts us just underneath himself. This message can be found back in Genesis 1. In the creation story, again and again God creates something and declares it “good.” Yet after God creates humans he says “very good.” Humans are the only part of the creation described as being made in God’s image. There is something about you that is like God and is very good.
David also says that God crowns us with glory and honor. The word crown means to surround. A crown goes around your head. In Hebrew the word “glory” is “kabod.” Literally it means weight or heaviness. It suggests that something is bigger and by extension, more important, than something else. Antares is bigger than the Sun or the planets. It has more glory, more kabod. Yet when God looks at us he thinks we are more important than all the rest of creation. We are surrounded by glory and honor. (9:30)
Ian Pitt-Watson was a professor at Fuller Seminary. One time in a sermon he said this: “Some things are loved because they are worthy; some things are worthy because they are loved.” You and I are not loved because we are worthy. We are worthy because we are loved. Our worth and our importance are not based on what we do. They are God’s gift to us. We are valuable just because God values us. The belief that we are valuable and important can be seen in at least two ways. (10:00)
First, we know we are important to God because God gave us an important job. “You have given humans dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet” (Psalm 8:6). Again, this points back to Genesis 1. When God made Adam and Eve he created them in his image and gave them dominion over all of creation. We have an important job.
When Tanya and I were in seminary we used to house sit for people. We did it for several families, but for one family in particular. Ray and Blaze Carlsen were members of the church we went to. Ray worked for a newspaper advertising company. He and Blaze used to take a business trip every year. One year their trip was during the winter. They went down to the Caribbean. They had three children that were pre-teen / early teenagers, and they asked us to watch their kids. We had a great time doing it. I got to be good friends with Joel. I talked him into getting a big tattoo on his arm. Tanya convinced Kay to pierce her nose. Kristy’s room was jammed full of toys. There was a spare bedroom right next to her room so we knocked down the wall between the rooms and made it one big room. I hired a contractor who came and fixed it up. Ray and Blaze had given us dominion over their home and their kids. We could do what we wanted, right!
If we had actually done that I probably would be in jail rather than standing here. We did house-sit and child-sit for Ray and Blaze, but the rest of it I made up. They gave us dominion over their home and over their children, but they expected us to do what they would have done. They trusted us enough to be responsible for their house and for their kids.
God values us and trusts us. Therefore God gave us dominion over the creation. That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want and abuse the creation. Our job is to care for the creation, to do what God wants for the creation. Our dominion is always under God’s authority. But our dominion is a sign of how much God trusts us and values us. (13:00)
There is a second way that God shows us how valuable we are. God sent his son into the world for us. God allowed Jesus to die for us. God raised Jesus from the dead for us. It is all because God loves us. As Paul says in Romans, “Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8)
People sometimes ask me if I like being an interim pastor. I tell people that the hardest part of being an interim pastor is that you meet people and fall in love with them, and then leave. I was in four called pastoral positions and it was always hard to say goodbye to people. I was down at John McMillan church in Bethel Park for about a year and a half. I really did fell in love with the people there. I’ve only been here a month, and I find myself falling in love with you. I don’t know for sure, because I’ve never had to face anything like it, but I might even be willing to die for you.
However, let me be honest with you. If something happened in here this morning and I had to risk my life to save you, you might be in trouble. You see, before I’d save any one of you I would save my wife Tanya. And if my kids were here I’d save them before any of you. I care for all of you, but there is no way I would sacrifice any of my kids for any of you. Sorry about that – deal with it! The idea that God would sacrifice his own Son for us is beyond my wildest imagination. God did it because he loves us. He values us. God thinks we are worth it!
Remember Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Let me finish the story. Buzz was devastated to discover that he was not really a space ranger. “I’m just a stupid, little, insignificant toy.” Woody saw how much it hurt Buzz, and so he tried to comfort him. “You must not be thinking clearly. Look, over in that house, there’s a kid who thinks you’re the greatest, and it’s not because you’re a space ranger; it’s because you’re his.”
God thinks you are the greatest, not because of what you’ve done, but because you’re his. He loves you. He thinks you’re important enough to give you a job as the caretaker of all the creation. He values you enough to send his only Son to live and die for you, so that you might live with God eternally. God has crowned us with glory and honor. Let us join our hearts and minds, and our voices, to praise the Lord and give Him the glory for the great things He has done!