Sunday, December 29, 2019
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Full Service Audio

“God Believes In You”
By The Rev. Chris Miller
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Readings: Psalm 8, James 1:2-8, 16-18, 16-18

In my more private moments, I will ask myself e most often ask ourselves and one another:  “What do I really believe about God. Do you do that as well? We may even ask someone else:What do you believe about God. These are important and engaging questions because what we believe about who God is — God`s character and God’s`s actions — isare significant. Do we believe God is good -- or not. Do we believe God is great and majestic as Psalm 8:1 declares -- or not. Do we believe God loves all humanity and all that God has created -- or not. What we believe about God is significant because our beliefthis  affects our understanding of and our responses to Godhow we want to act and respond toward God.

But this morning I want to consider another question. As as I prayed and pondered over this remarkable 8th Psalm in the Psalter,8, another question jumped off the page: “What does God believe about us?  “What does God believe about me, about you? The United Bible Societies’ have produced handbooks for every book in the Bible to assist Bible translators in their ability to translate words and phrases accurately in every language in the world. In their Handbook on the Psalms they call this psalm a “hymn which celebrates the glory of God and the worth of humankind.” That should give us a clue to an answer as to what God might believe about us!

Theat question what does God believe about me, about us — intrigues me because what God believes about us as human beings influences how God acts toward us! Belief and action are two sides of the same process for us and for God; they are not totally separate entities. God acts toward us in ways that reflect what God believes about us. We too act as we do in ways because of what we believe.

For exampleinstance, my two children are worth everything to me. Therefore, I believe they are worth my investment in their lives – investments of time, of love, care, interest, discipline and much more. One way I invested in them was to help them financially through university. Another way wasis to be available to them when they wereare in difficulty – even now. When they were in school, I used to remind them that, if they found themselves in an awkward circumstance they knew they shouldn’t be in or did not want to be in, they could always blame their straight-laced dad to get out of it. They could say I was really strict and they needed to get home right away – or else! Sometimes they took advantage of my offer and sometimes they did not.

Likewise, how God acts toward us depends upon what God believes about us. What does God believe about us as human beings?

Psalm 8 is a goodsignificant place to begin. Verse 3 in The Message Bible sets us up to consider where, in God’s eyes, we humans fit into the immensity of creation: “I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your hand-made sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings.” The psalmist wants us to know that creationCreation is immense and that the majestic God, the grand Artist, made it all. Yet, even though God’s handiwork is cosmic and majestic, God both notices and pays attention to us seemingly insignificant humans. That is what so captivated the psalmist. So then Herein is verse 4 in The Message Bible: “Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us [,God]? Why take a second look our way?”

While the immensity contrasts with seeming insignificance, the clear implication is that God does take the time and effort to look our way – and even to be involved in our lives. Humans seem so inconsequential compared with the vastness of the universe. Who among us has not stood out under the stars in awe and wondered about our place in this incredible universe? We might continue to wonder, if it were not for what the psalmist tells us in this psalm, about the place and the task of human beings. Here are some reasons why God believes we are worth his love, his bother and his concern.

In the first instance, the place of humans in the midst of everything God has made is “just shy of God’s own Being,” as Professor John Goldingayone commentator puts it. [John Goldingay]. Yes, that is exactly what the psalmist says in verse 5! It fascinates me that the psalmist did not say humans are “a little higher than animals.” That is what many today might say. Instead, he says humans are actually “a little lower than God” or, than the angels, as some translators put it.

One commentator (Rev. Jay Kessler) described our position as humans before God this way:

Virtually every one of us in this room is the result of an educational system that has, drip by drip, like dropping water on stone, made an impression on our lives as to who we are. Very few of us, naturally speaking, think of ourselves as a little lower than God or the angels.

We almost all think of ourselves as a little higher than the animals. That is, we have in our mind a mental picture of something we've seen in any natural history museum: an ascendancy of primates, little jumping creatures, eventually humped over with knuckles dragging, and finally standing erect. When we see the final "naked ape" embarrassingly like us, we say, "This is my heritage. This is where I came from." We think of ourselves as a little higher than the animals.

“I would notn't debate the fact” [said Kessler] “that as human beings we are mammals. We carry on the mammalian kind of processes: ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation, respiration, excretion, secretion, motion, sensitivity, and reproduction. We do these things without consciously thinking about them, just like all the other animals.”

However, the central statement of Scripture about humankind is that we have been infused by God with a nature that is not a little higher than the animals, but one that is a little lower than God or the angels. The United Bible Societies Handbook notes that the meaning of the verse to be translated in any language is this: “Little less than God is not to be taken as rough equality with God but viewed as higher than the rest of creation.”

My friends, we are not accidental by-products of an accidental evolutionary process. We are not some thing. You and I are some one!one. Now, we might debate just how God went about creating and in my opinion that’s a good debate to have. It’s the kind of important knowledge we gain from studying the wondrous intersection of the Christian Faith and science. And however God went about creating this phenomenal universe and this fantastic Earth, as believers in the Creator we would state our conviction that weWe human beingss are a deliberate creation ofby God. Humanity is God’s idea. – however God went about creating. It behoves us then to ask why God believes in us so much as to make us “just shy of God’s own being?

Because we are someone in God’s eyes! Verse, verse 5 also says God crowned humans with "glory" and "honour." Imagine! God placed on our heads, as it were, the gifts of gives human beings glory and honour! The imagery here is significant. Crown refers here to humanity’s authority over other created life. Another way to express this is to say, “God, you gave humans power to rule over all created life and you gave humans splendour and honour.” A footnote in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible states: God has given human beings a share of his own dignity by conferring on them dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26). Surely the psalmist is thinking back to the beginnings of life in Genesis 1 and 2 where we human beings were made so as to reflect God’s image and God’s loving purposes for creation. God has givens us challenging, and wonderful and purposeful responsibilitiesy.

Because we are someone in God’s eyes, verses 6 through 9 of Psalm 8 tell us that human beings have been assigned the task of being stewards or rulers ing over everything in God’s creation: sheep and cattle, the birds and the creatures in the seas – in fact, all creatures of the world.,. God believes in us enough to give us this remarkable assignment with serious responsibilities for caring wisely for other living creatures on this planet.

No matter how many of ushuman beings have not  lived up tofailed in our their assignment adequately  up to this point,  the task remains today. As followers of Jesus, we are not alone – we have never been alone – in accomplishing the task God has called us to do. The author of the Letter to Hebrews in Chapter 2 verses 6 to 9, reminds us of this, by quoting these same verses from Psalm 8 butand addingstating how we are connected to our task through Jesus, our Lord: “What are human beings, O God, that you should think of them; mere human beings, that you should care for them? You made them for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour,            and made them rulers over all things.”

The Scripture says that God made them “rulers over all things”; this clearly includes everything. We do not, however, see human beings ruling over all things now. We do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels too, so that through God’s grace he should die for everyone. We see him now crowned with glory and honour because of the death he suffered.”

This is the task God gave to human beingss on Earth: to rule the Earth on behalf of God as those given glory and honour by God to do so. Of course, the Scriptures teach thates humans are not to rule by exploiting this Earth or other human beings. God’s intention is that our stewardship should involve compassion and care like Gods compassion `sand care  for this Earth and all its creatures, including all humanity. Unfortunately, humans often do seem to possess an inclination toward exploitation and destruction. But think of it, the bottom line is God believes human beings are capable of governing God`s good world wisely and well on his behalf. God has also provided an answer to our human bent to sin and to the sins of exploitation and destruction in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And God believes we are able to , especially when we follow the example of Jesus and seek the discernment and help of thehis Holy Spirit in our tasks..

What more does God believe about us as human beings? The beginning verses of the Letter of James (1:2-4) gives us another insight. Here is the passage again from The Message Bible: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So, don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

God believes that, with God’s`s help, we are capable of handling the tests and challenges of life that inevitably come our way in this marred and fallensinful world. For  And for some of us, , it seems, there is more than enough adversity and struggle in ourtheir daily living to cause us to wonder if that statement is true or not.. Here is the passage again from Today’s New International Version:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

But we We can handle the troubles of our human condition when our faith is in God and in Jesus Christ.. Our ability to withstand and even to succeed despite the troubles and difficulties we face does not come from thinking we can handle these challenging circumstances on our own or in our own strength. Rather, our willingness to exercise our faith/trust in God gives us the hope and strength we need to endure the challenges. In fact, God expects us to pray to him and ask for his help and for the wisdom we need. When we trust that God is with us through anything and everything (whether we feel God’s presence or not), God will help us emerge from life’s`s difficulties as people who have become more mature and developed in our faith.

“God loves to help,” says James. Here’s how The Message Bible puts it: “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

Today`s New International Version: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.]

God believes we are capable of trusting enough that he loves to help us, that we can be bold enough in our asking for assistance and that we can believe enough -- without reservations – that God is there for us even when the trouble mayis not be removed from our lives.  

What more does God believe about us?

God also believes you and I we are capable of doing what is good before him and toward others. Micah was one of those Old Testament prophets who, in the words of Eugene Peterson, was “charged with keeping people alive to God and alert to listening to the voice of God.” Hear what Micah said in Chapter 6, verse 8: The Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.

I was a hospital chaplain for many years so the following true storyillustration struck a responsive chord with me. A 2009 article in the Chicago Tribune newspaper [Barbara Mahany, "Cooking Up Compassion," Chicago Tribune (9-20-09), section 6] told the story of Bettye Tucker, a cook and a Christian who workeds the night shift at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. At that time, she had been doing her job for 43 years 28 of them on the night shift. She sawees a steady stream of parents in her job, many of them frightened and weary. On one particular night in September 2009, Miss Bettye (as she wasis referred to by all who knewow her) served food to a mother whose three-year-old had fallen out of a second-storey window that morning, another mother whose 17-year-old was battling a rare form of leukemia and a third mother whose 18-year-old had endured seven hours of brain surgery. Their stories broke the heart of Miss Bettye and, as one co-worker said: “That's why she feeds every last one of them as if they had walked right into the 'too-small' kitchen of [herthe] South Side brick bungalow.”  [where she lives]." A member of the hospital's housekeeping crew added this about Miss Bettye: "You need someone to bring you life, and she brings it in the middle of the night."

A picture of Miss Bettye that accompanied the article showeds a woman with a beautiful smile. It's hard to imagine how much that smile would mean to a suffering parent or child. Miss Bettye said: "When I ask, 'How you doin' today?' and they say it's not a good day, I say, 'Don't lose hope.' When the nurses tell me it's a bad night, I say: 'I understand it's a bad night, but guess what? I am here for you. I'm going to get you through the night.'"

Another picture showed s Miss Bettye sitting down, head bowed, over a meal. "I'm a praying lady," she says in the article. "I pray every night, for every room and every person in the hospital. I start with the basement, and I go up, floor by floor, room by room. I pray for the children, I pray for the families, I pray for the nurses and the doctors. … I say, every night while I'm driving in on the expressway, 'Oh, Lord, I don't know what I'll face tonight, but I pray you'll guide me through.'"

The reporter who wrote the article offered these words about Miss Bettye: "[It] just might be that divine helping on the side is the most essential item on Miss Bettye's menu. The one she stirs into every broth, and every whisper. The ingredient that makes her the perpetual light shining in the all-night kitchen."

Friends, God believes we are capable of doing what is good – of loving our neighbour -- of showing constant love and compassion like Miss Bettye.  

The amazing truth is, God believes in us! God believes in you! God believes in me! And God acts with amazing mercy, with understanding compassion, with generous forgiveness and with constant love toward us. James 1:18, as stated in The Message Bible, reminds us: “God brought us to life using the true Word that is, Jesus the Lord, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures!”

That is who we are – in God`s eyes! That is who you are – in God’s eyes! You have been crowned with glory and honour to reflect God’s glory and honour in this world, wherever you find yourself.

Friends, may we believe this in the core of our being – nay this be so – in your life and in mine. Amen!