Who Are We?

Psalm 8

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Our Psalmist asks — who are we that God would care for us?

James Taylor paraphrased our Psalm today into common English. He wrote,

“My God, my God,
how wonderful you are!
There is nothing like you in the whole earth.

I look up to the skies, and I see you there;
Babies and infants open their mouths,
and I hear them cry your name.
Compared to you, our weapons, our bombs,
our power to destroy,
dwindle into insignificance.
On a starry night, with your glory splashed across the skies,
I gaze into your infinite universe, and I wonder:
Who am I?
Why do I matter?
Why do you care about mere mortals?

We humans are less than specks of dust in your universe.
We have existed less than a second in the great clock of creation.
Yet you choose us as your partners.
You share the secrets of the universe with us;
you give us a special place in your household;
you trust us to look after the earth, on your behalf—
not just the sheep and oxen,
but also the wolves that prey on our domestic animals;
the birds, the plants, and even creatures we have never seen
in the depths of the sea.

My God, my God! How amazing you are.”

Sometimes, I wonder the same things the Psalmist and Taylor do –

Who am I?
Why do I matter?
Why do you, God, care about mere mortals?

If we’re raised thinking humans are de facto rulers over the earth, this question doesn’t really bother us. Who are we? We’re humans – that’s what! Rulers. We have dominion.
But if you stop and think about it… like the author of Hebrews does… we humans don’t actually have dominion over the earth.

Hurricanes ruin our homes and take lives.

Floods take our crops and homes and lives.

Wild fires, tornadoes, bitterly cold winters — even the melting ice caps — we influence a lot, but actually having dominion? Actually having full control?

No. We’re powerful, but not all powerful in the least.

None of us can stop the sun from rising or death from coming. We are mortal.

Our mortality really strikes home when I look at a time-line of the Earth. If earth was a 24 hour day, life began here around 4 in the morning. It’s not until 2 in the afternoon cells develop. Seaweed shows up around 8:30, land plants at 9:52. Dinosaurs begin to roam the Earth around 10:56 pm. Mammals around 11:39. The very last minute and a half — 11:58:43– humans appear. My own life of 28 years is .0000268 seconds on this 24 hour clock. Over ten thousand times than a blink of an eye which is .3 of a second. On this scale, even the pyramids are young. Stonehenge was made a blink ago. One blink ago people learned how to grow crops for the very first time and to make pots out of clay.

We humans, on the scale of this earth, are mere hundreds of seconds. Dinosaurs are minutes. God spent hours and hours on rocks! Hours and hours on making the moon! We… aren’t even a blink yet.

… and our planet it young. Our planet isn’t a blink to the universe.

… Who are we, that God — God who has spent more time than we can wrap our heads around on ROCKS — on planets we’ll never see and stars that were born, lived, and died before life even existed on earth — who are we that we matter to God who created all of this?!

How can the Psalmist say we’re in control of all of this?

The authors of Hebrew is looking at the world about 60 years after Jesus died. He sees a world much like our own – waiting on Jesus’ return, continue on as it always has, bad stuff still happening, people still sinning, and a whole lot of stuff outside of human control. We cannot even control the results of our actions! How often has a good intention caused really bad consequences?

Yet our psalm says God made us in charge of all of this; and in Genesis we’re told we’re stewards of the Earth… but the author of Hebrews argues we clearly aren’t in charge. There’s so, so much that happens we’d rather not happens. I mean, if I were in charge, there’d be no more cancer, there’d be peace among all the nations, and no one would have too much or too little.

So the Hebrews author argues the mortal who was made lower than the angels for a little while who will be in full charge in the future is Jesus. Clearly he was mortal, argues the author of Hebrews, for Jesus suffered and died. People are still alive – very elderly at this point – but when Timothy or whoever writes this, there are still people alive who remember Jesus dying. They were kids then, but they remember.

So Jesus was mortal. Yet clearly he was also more than mortal, since Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory, and a exact imprint of who God is, and sustains us with his powerful word.

Why a mortal? Why not send Jesus as an angel, or a spirit? Why a lowly mortal? Who are we that God would have God’s own spirit and image in our tiny little fragile frame?

Neither author in today’s reading – the author of Hebrews or the Psalmist—answers why us. Instead, they end in praise that we are the children of God. We never earned this, but we can respond to it.

We don’t have full control over all of the world. We do not yet see the master plan, the reason God notices and made we tiny, tiny humans.

What we do see is Jesus.

And in Jesus, we see God.

And we see that God made all things, sustains all things, and loves all things.

We see we all have one creator, one parent, one source whom we all come from.

The rocks and trees, the fish and birds, the distant galaxies and stars and moon — even the angels and our beloved Jesus… we all have one Father.

Or mother, or parent, or grandmother, or grandfather, or whatever human term you use to think of the one who loves you the most like a parent loves a child: a perfect love, a deep love, a love that only God contains but which we try to explain in human terms.

How limited we are to explain our encounter with God. We are babes. Infants. And yet, God listens. Listens and loves.

How befitting is this passage on World Communion Sunday. Today we affirm we share a single faith with Christians everywhere. Those who have passed, and those who are yet to be, those who are here and those who are scattered about the world.

We all have one sacrament. We are a community. We commune together. We all have one God we know through Jesus. We all share one Holy Spirit. Let us come in humbleness, in joy, in great worship and love to this holy meal with our God, our Sovereign, and our brother Jesus, and all our brothers and sisters around the world. Amen.

Given to St. Michael’s United Church of Christ 10-4-15


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