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21 October 2010 @ 12:24 pm
Sermon for the 21st Sunday after Trinity  
Rev. Charles Lehmann + Trinity 21 + Gen. 1:1-2:3, 4th Petition

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The planet earth is a small rocky world in the Orion Spur, a minor arm in the Milky Way galaxy. Earth is about 26,000 light years from the center of our galaxy. This means that it if you turned on a flashlight and aimed it toward the constellation Sagittarius, the light would reach the center of the Milky Way in about 26,000 years.

We are 93 million miles, or eight light-minutes, from our sun. Our sun is one of 200 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is one of many galaxies in the universe. Scientists currently estimate that there are 125 billion galaxies. Each of these galaxies has billions of stars.

In one popular science fiction series, there is a torture device called the Total Perspective Vortex. Anyone that enters this machine goes completely insane. The reason for this is rather simple. Douglas Adams describes the Total Perspective Vortex this way in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, ‘You are here.’” The immensity of the universe cannot help but lead the person into the depths of an absolutely inconsolable depression.

This sort of despair is not unknown in the Scriptures. David writes, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… 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?”

David frames the problem very well. Who are we in a universe that is as large and extraordinary as this? What importance can we possibly have in it? It is almost as if David has spent some time in the Total Perspective Vortex.

That is what makes David’s next words so amazing. He writes, “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” No depression for David. No despair. No vain philosophical musings about his pathetic place in the universe.

Instead, David steps out of the Total Perspective Vortex amazed at the love and grace which God showers upon him and all of humanity. The immensity of the universe doesn’t make David feel less important. Instead, knowing the magnificence of creation makes David all the more aware of how amazing it is that God would love and care for a creature who is as insignificant in the grand scheme of things as he is.

Douglas Adams was an atheist. Though he had great wit and wrote enjoyable stories, human beings were little more in his books that a rather cute joke played on the rest of the universe. They were not that important. They were not that unique. What science teaches us about the universe led Adams to conclude that he just wasn’t important at all.

Though creation can and does reveal to us that we have a creator who has intricately fashioned all of the billions of galaxies, stars, and planets into a tapestry of unspeakable beauty, we cannot discover through science how God regards us and our little world. Science cannot tell us that God loves each of us enough to take human flesh into Himself and suffer and die to redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Only a Christian can pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and believe with a firm conviction based on the promises that God gives in His Word that He will hear and answer that prayer. Only a Christian can believe that among all of the trillions of stars it is on the third planet from the one shining in our sky where He has created and sustained life. It is on the people living here that He has chosen to shower His love and mercy. It is for you human creatures of the planet earth, and no one else, that He was willing to take on human flesh, suffer, and die.

The account of creation that God gives us in Genesis makes it absolutely clear that the worldview indicated by Douglas Adams and his Total Perspective Vortex is wrong. Moses was specifically answering a false theology that was very similar to what we get in Adams’ novels.

The false religions of the ancient world also saw humanity as insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The pagan religions of the day thought of human beings as nothing more than an annoying necessity. The gods needed worship and sacrifice and so they created humanity to serve them.

The pagan religions identified their false gods with the stars. That is where astrology had its origin. The ancient pagans thought that by studying the movements of the stars they would be able to manipulate the gods more effectively.

Moses was not willing to have any of this. In Genesis, the stars are completely demystified. They are not gods. They are not the powers that guide the fate of humanity. The word that Moses uses to describe the stars is the same one that he uses for candles. The stars are lamps. They are no more spiritually powerful than a light bulb or the wick of a candle. And in Genesis the stars do not guide the fates of men. Instead they mark time. They tell you what season it is. They are calendars.

And humanity is not an annoying necessity in the book of Genesis. In Genesis, we are the whole point. God creates the entire universe. Earth, heaven, the billions of galaxies and their trillions of stars are all created for one purpose and one purpose only. They are to serve the needs of man. They are a gift. They are for you.

You are different from the rest of creation. You are of far greater significance than any of the trillions of stars or any of the billions of galaxies. You are unique. None of the stars are created in God’s image according to His likeness. God does not desire to have a personal relationship with them so that they can receive His gifts of daily bread, life, and eternal salvation. Jesus didn’t take on hydrogen and become a star. Jesus didn’t explode in a supernova so that He could redeem the star Sirius or Betelgeuse. Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross so that the sins of Pleiades or Jupiter could be forgiven.

No. Jesus took on human flesh. He came into creation in a small peasant village on this planet, in this stellar arm, in this galaxy. He did this because of you. He did it because He desired that you should receive the forgiveness of all of your sins. He did it because you were more important to Him than anything in the rest of the universe.

This is not something that you can learn by looking into the beautiful night sky above Garrett County. This is not something you can learn by looking into the largest telescope or by reading the most comprehensive textbook of astronomy.

The way in which God provides for you is something that you can only learn from the Scriptures. It is in God’s Holy Word to us that we know that every earthly gift comes from God’s hand. It is in His Word to us that we learn that He provides us with “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

When God created all the starry host on the fourth day of creation, He called the work of that day “good.” It was good. It had been completed in just the way that God intended in order to fulfill all of the good purposes that He had for it.

But on the fourth day, God did not declare anything to be “very good.” That didn’t happen until Friday. It was on that very first Friday that God created Adam and Eve. It was on that day that God created the ones to whom He wanted to give the rest of creation.

The universe was not very good until God had created humanity. The universe was not very good until it could be the gift for you that He wanted it to be. The universe was not very good until our first parents were put into the Garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.

But you know what happened next. Adam and Eve transgressed against the one command that they had been given. Because of this there needed to be another Friday, a Good Friday, a Friday during which God the Son would suffer all of the wrath that our sin deserved.

On that Good Friday, Jesus made all things new. On that Good Friday, Jesus provided all that you need for all time. On that Good Friday, the image of God was restored to you and all your sins were forgiven.

If the Total Perspective Vortex existed, we would have nothing to fear from it. We are indeed the center of the universe. We are the crown of creation. Jesus has made this clear through the shedding of His blood. You are His most prized possession.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.