Truly awesome!

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Psalm 8
(7-10-12)

In recent years the word ‘awesome’ has perhaps been overused and abused. I think it’s gone out of fashion a bit now but, using it in its correct way, when did you last have an overwhelming experience, something that was awesome?

I saw something last week that was awesome. Did any of you see the sunset sky last Monday? I was driving to Cottenham and the sky and the light emanating from it was – well awesome. It was so vivid that the green trees along the road were turned red and orange as if they were on fire. The trees that already had yellow or orange leaves on them were even more so. When I first came here many of you told me that the beauty of the peaks would be replaced by the amazing sky panoramas over the fens. Last Monday this was so true it was quite dangerous driving in such an amazing, glowing light.

Psalm 8 declares God as awesome. And that comes from a picture of someone standing alone at night, staring up at the vast expanse of the universe.

In daytime the sun prevents us seeing much else in the heavens, but at night, we’re often overwhelmed by the beauty from the moon, stars, planets, and galaxies. Emerson said if the stars came out only once a century, people would stay up all night gazing at them. Knowledge of outer space
gives us even more reason for appreciating our insignificance in the solar system and God’s concern for us than it would have done the psalmist who was overcome by the question. "What is one human being, that you should remember him? What is a single mortal that you should care for her?"

Listen to Our God is an awesome God
and The heaven’s are telling?

Psalm 8 gives us the chance to become ‘star-gazers’. Every time I read it I get a wonderful warm and rosy-glow feeling. A feeling that is 100% genuine. It describes something that is truly wonderful, truly true and truly awesome!

In this beautiful expression of praise to God, the psalmist stands amazed that the God of creation would pay any attention to frail people on earth. He understands that God glorifies Himself in the heavens, but how can He glorify Himself on earth through weak, sinful people? Our dignity comes though, from our being made in the image of God.  And, apart from knowing God, we would have no understanding of who we are or what we are doing in this great universe.

Peter Sellars was once interviewed by Kermit The Frog. Kermit told Peter, "Now, just relax and be yourself." Peter replied, "I can’t be myself because I don’t know who I am. The real me doesn’t exist." He was possibly trying to be funny, but his words were really rather sad.

Later a friend said, "Poor Peter! The real Peter disappeared a long time ago. What he is now is simply an amalgamation of all the stage and screen characters he has ever played, and now he is frantically trying to unsnarl that mess and find out who he really is."

Six months later Peter was dead so we don’t know if he unsnarled the mess. But many people don’t. They go through life wondering who they are, what they’re supposed to be doing, and where they’re going. Some scientists say we’re merely accidents of nature, like a spider is. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but God tells us we’re special, we’re created in His image and we’re important to Him. We mustn’t think too lowly of ourselves.

Praising the majesty of God, the psalmist realizes "God, You’ve made me just a little bit lower than Yourself - that’s a pretty high rating! You crowned me with glory and honour and made me ruler over all of the works of Your hands."

BUT doesn’t the Bible tell us not to think too highly of ourselves, that our sins have ruined the image of God in which we were created. We were created to be in a loving relationship with God but there’s a great gap between us and Him caused by Adam and Eve’s sin. They gave in to Satan’s temptation and by doing the one thing God told them not to, all the world suffer the consequences.

So, yes we need to learn that we mustn’t think too highly of ourselves. The big danger being that we might soon think, ‘I’m not just created in the image of God. I am God. I will control my own life, and my own destiny.’

On the other hand, we can become so focused on our sins that we’re totally defeated and feel we’re worth nothing at all. There has to be a happy medium: "I am created in the image of God, but my image is scarred by my sin."

St Paul says we don’t have to live that way. We’re created in God’s image and, yes, the image has been marred. But you can once again reflect the glory, the image of God, through Christ you can be made full and complete.

We might have felt sad when Peter Sellers said, “I don’t know who I am. The real me doesn’t exist.”

But who am I, who are you? Of the many labels I may give myself, the one that counts the most is ‘I am a Christian. I have been born again in Jesus Christ.’ The Bible says, ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) I have a new life, bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. That is who I am. According to the Bible God is crazy about us - If He had a fridge, our picture would be on it.

Often that doesn’t make sense to us. We try to do what Adam and Eve did when they discovered they’d sinned and tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. We think that if we disguise our sins well enough God won’t notice.

We might try covering up with good works. ‘If I’m good enough, God will see all the good things I’ve done.’ We might try being religious, attempting to cover themselves with lots of church activities, and holy behavior like the Pharisees. It would be hard finding anyone who prayed more, tithed more, and worshipped more regularly than the Pharisees. But Jesus called them "white-washed tombs." All clean and freshly painted on the outside - but insides filled with dead bones.

Our efforts to cover our sins (good works or religious acts) have the same effect on God. It looks like a "white-washed tomb." It’s a bit like someone who hasn’t had a bath in months but covers themselves with perfume, resulting in a horrible smell that’s only partly disguised.

That’s not saying that God doesn’t appreciate good works, or church involvement but if we think those activities will cover our nakedness in God’s presence, we’re kidding ourselves. What God wants is a relationship with us. He wants to walk with us and talk with us. With Adam and Eve God covered them with the skins of animals. Those animals had had to die. And it’s the same as Him covering us by the death of His son.

An 8 year old girl wrote to Abraham Lincoln, when he was running for President suggesting that he grow a beard. She thought he’d stand a better chance if he hid the homeliness of his face. Lincoln thanked her for her suggestion, saying he’d like to visit her when his campaign came to her area. On the day Lincoln’s campaign train went there the whole town assembled at the station. Leading Republicans wearing top hats, a shiny marching, band, townsfolk in their best clothes. Almost everyone: except the little girl who was left at home. Her father thought Lincoln would only be interested in the politicians and their speeches - the votes and the voters. As the train approached the town, it was forced to stop for repairs.

Not wanting to sit in the warm train, Lincoln set off across the field in search of the little girl. Knocking at the door, the maid was speechless. But the little girl and her playmate, the maid’s daughter, welcomed him in as if they were expecting him. They’d been having a pretend party, drinking pretend hot chocolate and they invited Lincoln to join them. Eventually, Lincoln thanked them for the party, asked how they liked his new beard and walked back to the train, which then went through the town without stopping. Past the band, flags, dignitaries and politicians He hadn’t come to visit people who were putting on a show for his benefit. He’d come to visit and thank a little girl who just wanted to spend time with him. When Jesus comes again He’ll be coming for those whose sins have been covered by His death. Not for those who are concerned with putting on a show and ‘looking good’. He’ll come for those that want to spend time with Him because they love Him.

The Bible tells us that every single human being is created in the image of God. This isn't something we can earn by being smarter, wealthier, or more ethical. No-one, for any reason, is ever bereft of the divine likeness. We can distort or enhance God's image by choices we make, but we don’t lose it. Being made in the image of God doesn't place us at the center of the universe. God alone is at the center but humanity, is made ‘a little lower than the angels’. Genesis says the care for all the earth is given to us. We are co-regents of creation with God, the angels are servants, but we are kings. Sin has robbed us of our crowns but Christ came to redeem us and when we trust Him and crown Him as Lord of all we will be made like Him. ‘O Lord, our Lord, how excellent in your name in all the earth!’