Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sermon: Psalm 8 What is man?

David asks a question this morning right at the centre of Psalm 8. It’s a question we want to think about for a moment or two. And here is the question: What is man? Or, to put it another way, what are people? So what are we?

Today as we welcome baby Arthur into the church family, that might be the question that family and friends are asking - who is Arthur? Who does he look like? How will he get on with his two older sisters? Already his personality is developing, becoming the person he will be.

But what about the rest of us? What is a person? Well, I thought about the recipe for a person. Now, forget about that wee rhyme that says ‘sugar and spice and all things nice - that’s what little girls are made of. Snips and snails and puppy dogs tails - that’s what little boys are made of.’ Here’s the recipe for a person - here’s what we’re made up of.

35 litres of water. 20 kg of carbon. 4 litres of ammonia. 1.5kg of lime. 800g phosphorous. 250g salt. 80 g sulphur. 7.5g fluorine. 5g iron. 3g silicon, and fifteen other traces of elements.

How does that make you feel? Now, was that what David was asking? What is man? And he was wanting the chemical breakdown of what goes into us? I’m sure not.

He asks, what is man, but in Psalm 8, he’s asking the question in relation to who God is. You see, man comes in the middle of the Psalm, but it’s the LORD where he starts and finishes.

‘O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ He’s saying to God that God’s name is majestic, is glorious, is super-fantastic (even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!). And why is God’s name is special?

Well, first of all, because God’s glory is above the heavens. Everywhere you look, you see the glory of God. And even beyond what you can see, God’s glory fills it as well. And God’s glory brings forth our praise.

What do you do when you see something you like? You clap, or you shout, or you sing! So when you favourite team scores a goal (or even four goals like Man United yesterday), then you cheer. You praise them. Or when you see your favourite singer in concert, you cheer, or sing, you praise.

It’s the same with God - but in fact, it should be even more so with God. When we think of all that God has done, and who he is, then we should praise - Psalm 8 tells us that even from the lips of children and infants God has ordained praise. He wants us to praise him, because it silences our enemies.

When we praise God, the devil can’t reply, he can’t say anything. So today, we have the opportunity to keep the devil quiet, as we sing our praises to God.

David then thinks a bit more about God’s glory, and about all that God has done. Have you ever been out on a dark night, with no streetlights around, and seen the stars?

‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place...’

David looks up at the night sky, and he sees loads of stars. Someone cleverer than me has worked out that David might have been able to see about 2000 - 3000 stars. With a good pair of binoculars, we could see up to 100,000.

Or here’s a tennis ball. If the earth was the size of a tennis ball, then the moon would be the size of a marble, and it would be 2 metres away.

The sun would be about 7.3 metres in diameter, 783 metres away - about 8 football pitches in length.

Now that’s just the earth, the moon, and the sun. Astronomers reckon there are between 200 - 400 billion stars in the Milky Way (not the chocolate bar!) - our galaxy; and there are over 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe.

Now, we know so much more than David knew, but even the little bit he saw showed him God’s glory, and left him asking the question - what is man? But the full question is this: In the light of all that God has made, the size of the universe, all the stars that he has made, ‘what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?’

With everything else that God has on his mind and his hands, why does God care about us? Do you see what David is saying? God really does care for us. He is mindful of us - that means he remembers us.

God has made us a little lower than the angels, and crowned us with glory and honour. More than that, God has made us rulers over all that he has made - he has put everything under our feet - we care for creation - all flocks and herds, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea...

So why has God done all this? Because he cares for us. Jesus tells us in the Gospels that God has numbered the very hairs of our heads - now that might be easier for some than others - but that’s how closely he knows us.

God cares for us. And Psalm 8 points us back to the Garden of Eden. Can anyone remember the names of the very first people in the world? Adam and Eve. God made them to be the rulers of the world, to care for everything. But Adam and Eve turned their backs on God. They said no to God. They sinned against God.

But God still cares for us. And in the New Testament, in Hebrews, the writer says that at the minute we don’t see everything under our feet. We might have a pet or two, a dog or a cat or a budgie, but wild animals are still wild. Not everything is under our control.

But the writer says that we do see something - we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, but who is now crowned with glory and honour. Jesus came to this earth, he became a human like you and me, in order to save us. He died for our sins, for the wrong things we have done, and the good things we haven’t done.

And we can reign with Jesus, we can share his throne with him, as we come to him. Here’s why God cares for us - because he cares for us. He loves us because he loves us. Arthur is loved, not because of anything he does, but simply because Alistair and Emma love him. And it’s the same with God.

What is man? Who are we? People God made, and people God loves so much that he gave his Son to become one of us, to bring us back to him. So who are we? People who owe everything we have to God - people to praise God for all his glory. Let’s pray.

This sermon was preached at the Family Service in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday 20th August 2017.

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