Monday, May 07, 2012

Sermon: Psalm 8 What is man?

One of the things that we’ve quickly noticed since moving to Fermanagh is the quality of the stars at night. In Belfast, you might have seen a few stars, but with all the light pollution, it was hard to make out many. It would have been difficult to be amazed by the universe. But here, well, the view is wonderful! On a clear night you can see stars, and stars, and stars - more than I could have imagined!

Have you ever stopped to think about the greatness of the universe, and compared it to us, here on planet earth? There’s a famous picture taken by the space shuttle Voyager 1, taken four billion miles away, in which the earth appears as a ‘blue dot’. Someone referred to earth as ‘a mote of dust in a sunbeam.’

When you are confronted with all this, what do you make of it? How do you respond to the wonder of all that exists? Do you praise the big bang which brought all this into being by chance? Are you amazed by the randomness of it all? As King David surveys the skies, it moves him to praise - in the right direction:

‘O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ David looks at the earth, and sees the glory of God. David looks at the skies, and sees the glory of God. It’s what Paul later affirms in Romans 1: ‘For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.’

God delights in the praise of his children - David says that he has established strength out of the mouths of babies and infants. Remember the scene as Jesus enters Jerusalem, and the children are crying out? Their praise silences the opposition, stills the enemy.

As David considers the heavens, he’s led to wonder. Here’s how he puts it: ‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’

If we’re just a speck of dust floating in a sunbeam, and yet God cares for us, how amazing and wonderful is that? Why have you done this God? Why would you care for us?

Imagine someone who has served the community for years and years - a lollipop lady, or someone who fosters children. They quietly go about their business, and yet one day a letter from the Queen arrives, inviting them to receive an honour - an MBE or OBE. If you’ve ever seen someone like that interviewed on TV or in the local newspaper, they’ll be so humble, they never expected it. Who am I to receive this, they might ask.

David is saying who are we - what is man? But more than that, it’s not just a once in a lifetime honour - it’s ongoing care and love. If God is overseeing and ruling over the whole universe, then why would he be concerned with little old me? But he is!

And not just concerned with us, but given us a place of honour: ‘Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet...’

Isn’t this what happened at creation? God makes Adam and Eve and gives them the place of authority over the world, to rule it under God. We still have this role of oversight over creation - for better or worse, as things are going.

God gave Adam and Eve a share in his glory and honour. They were to rule over the creation, but as we all know, it went badly wrong. Rather than ruling under God, Adam and Eve tried to rebel against God’s rule, and set themselves up as supreme. Their place in the Garden was lost, the fall affected everything - weeds and thistles, hard labour, and pain in childbirth. One writer even goes so far to say that when birds or creatures fly or run away from us now they know that we’re in quarrel with their maker!

The good news is that God sent a second Adam to the fight, the new man, who would overturn the curse, and bring in the new heavens and the new earth. It’s the point that the writer to the Hebrews makes as he quotes these verses. He points to the son of man (a favoured title of the Lord Jesus), who was made for a little while lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour, with everything in subjection under his feet.

How amazing that the eternal son of God should give up his place in heaven for the sake of you and me, and take a step down. There’s a TV programme that’s on Channel 4 - undercover boss. The head of a company turns up in one of his branches as a new employee, and sees what it’s like to work at the bottom of the pile - experiencing the dirty jobs rather than the nice, pleasant office work. That’s a bit like what the Lord Jesus undertook - he went from the very top, down below the angels, to become man, to do that job that only he could - to die for our sins and our salvation.

As a result, he has been crowned with glory and honour, as he was raised from the dead and ascended to reign in heaven, at the right hand of his Father. But the writer to the Hebrews points out that the last wee bit hasn’t been completed yet:

‘At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.’ (Heb 2:8-9)

If we can paraphrase David, what are we, that you would give your Son for us? How worthy is the Lord Jesus to be praised and honoured, who gave up so much for us! As we look at the night sky, we may be moved and humbled by the array of stars, shining in their places. but even that is as nothing compared to the glory of the Lord Jesus, who stepped down for us, and died on the cross for you and for me.

Will you receive his love? Will you honour him? Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf was converted as he gazed at a painting of the Lord Jesus, the scars of the cross visible, and the saying: ‘‘All this I did for thee, What hast thou done for Me?’ Jesus reigns, and one day soon everything will be under his feet. Will you come today, and praise him, and give your life to him?

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall, Brookeborough on Sunday 6th May 2012.

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