This post in an adapted excerpt from my sermon in the series “Four Things,” preached at Morden Mennonite on January 24, 2016. Here is the full audio of the sermon:
Astronomers tell us that the stars we see at night are only the tiniest fraction of all the stars out there. Someone with the best eyesight on the clearest night with no moon will see around 4,000 stars—but there are billions upon billions of stars in the universe. In fact, some of those “stars” up there are not even stars at all, but whole galaxies: billions more stars, so far away that even through a telescope they look like a single, tiny point of light.
It can be awe-inspiring, but it can also make us feel pretty small, pretty insignificant. That’s the feeling behind these familiar words from Psalm 8:
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is humankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
God our Creator, your creation is so vast, you must be even more vast! Why should we think that you care about us, mere ashes and dust? Why should we think there is any meaning to this life, any purpose for our existence?
Have you ever felt this way? Small, insignificant, hardly worth anyone’s attention, let alone God’s?
Maybe you are on the cusp of adulthood, making the transition to full independence. You are at a crossroads, wondering what you should do with your life. The world can seem so big, and you so small, and the answers you received in your childhood are starting to seem pretty simplistic.
Or maybe you are closer to the end of your life than the beginning. You think of all the things you used to do, that you can’t do any more. You used to be so useful, but now maybe you feel useless, unnecessary.
Or maybe you are somewhere in between, but faced with illness or death, a job loss, a relationship rupture, a big move. You feel de-stabilized, like the ground is shifting beneath your feet.
It’s at times like these that we tend to ask the “purpose” questions of life: “Why am I here?” “What is the meaning of life?” “What is my purpose?”
If any of this is how you feel, God has some good news for you: “You are needed.”
You are needed. God has created you for a purpose, a purpose that is tied into God’s larger purposes for the world. And that purpose doesn’t change, regardless of your past or your present or whatever stage of life you’re at. That purpose doesn’t change, regardless of who you are or aren’t, or what you know or don’t know, or what you can or cannot do. You are needed.
Listen again to the way Psalm 8 continues:
You have made them [human beings] a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet.
Think of this: you are a ruler over the works of God’s hands! This is how God looks at you. God sees everything about you: strengths and weaknesses, temperament and emotions, inner thoughts and outward actions, past and present. But through all this—both the good and the bad—God sees you as a queen or a king, charged with ruling in God’s earthly creation.
Okay, that might sound strange! Maybe some of you have read C. S. Lewis’s stories of Narnia, and you think of the “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve” being “kings and queens in Narnia.” It sounds like fantasy, not reality.
But C. S. Lewis had it exactly right. You see, Psalm 8 is simply reflecting Genesis 1 and the profound truth there that human beings are created “in the image of God.” This is what that means: we are each of us, all of us, you and me and every person, created by God to be God’s representatives on earth, extending God’s kingdom throughout the whole earth, sharing God’s love and God’s light and God’s life with the world.
You are needed. You are needed by God to extend God’s kingdom of love and light and life throughout the world, wherever you are, just the way you are. You are needed.
Maybe this seems easier for some than for others. Some of us have money or education, strength or skill—obvious resources that can be used to fulfill this God-given purpose.
But whether we have these resources or not, we all have something we bring to this life—time, energy, encouraging words, compassionate deeds, a listening ear, our simple presence—things that can be used to further God’s life-giving, kingdom purposes for the world.
Maybe when we think about God’s kingdom we think about big things: justice in our society, peace in the wider world. That’s true: God’s kingdom is about those things.
But those things don’t happen instantly, all fully-grown. Remember, Jesus said that God’s kingdom starts small, like a mustard seed. It started small, with Jesus, a crucified peasant in the backwater of a long-gone empire. And it continues to start small, tiny pulses of love and light and life that magnify into waves of justice and peace.
Each moment we choose to share love instead of being indifferent to the needs of others, God’s kingdom is bursting forth. Each moment we choose to shine a light instead of complaining about the darkness, God’s reign is being revealed. Each moment we choose to sustain and enhance life instead of simply giving up and giving in to death and destruction, God’s rule is being extended.
You are needed. God has created you for a purpose, a purpose that is tied into God’s larger purposes for the world. And that purpose doesn’t change, regardless of who you are or aren’t, or what you know or don’t know, or what you can or cannot do. You are needed by God to share God’s kingdom of love and light and life throughout the world, wherever you are, just the way you are. You are needed.