Lately, I have been distracted by the observation of how insignificant I am. Perhaps it is a function of maturing. When I was young I was certain that I would shake up the world and make a big difference. I was the kid that just knew that all those old rules about how and when and what were not absolute and I was going to blaze a new trail. Just work hard and be honest and do a good job and the world will beat a path to your door.
Then reality slapped me about a bit, and Father Time beat the stuffings out of me, and I discovered that all those old "rules" were not so much immutable laws as the accumulated observations of those who had gone before me. They weren't binding, they were simply and profoundly accurate. The 'hippie' generation started buying SUV's and, when they could, Lexus'. They traded in their tie-dyed tees for suits and "age-appropriate attire". And talent, intelligence, and a kind heart did not mean public approbation and pecuniary gain, necessarily.
People abandoned perfectly good music for something that made no sense to my ear, art became less comprehensible, and truth did not persuade people simply because it was true. After years of working conscientiously, I discovered that I had not changed the world, and the few marks I had made on it faded very quickly when I turned my attention to other things.
Most of the world does not share my outlook on life. In my little piece of the world, I find myself to be a very small cog in a very large machine - and my piece of the world is rather insignificant when viewed in the context of the entire nation - and America is a mere blip on the screen of human history, and Americans clearly experience this world in a manner very different than most people in most nations on the surface of this planet today. I mean, there are entire populations 'out there' that would find the most impoverished and difficult conditions I have experienced in my life to be generally comfortable and well-provided. I am in a minority in a nation which is, itself, in the minority of the inhabitants of this world - a privileged and envied, and despised minority who look at the world and life and our place in either in ways the rest of the world has trouble imagining.
I am not having a mid-life crisis - at least I don't think so. I am simply assessing my place in this world, and my impact on it. My place is small, and my impact, however great it might appear at moments of glory, is negligible and very temporary. Great works of art don't last. The works of great writers fall out of print, and are replaced by the pallid prose of lesser men and women. Preachers that once fired the imagination of the world are barely remembered today. The music that inspired a generation is dethroned on your radio dial by grunts and pops and squeaks of various sorts that pass of music today. How much less impact does a small-town preacher in "fly-over country" possess?
Oddly, the thought of my insignificance doesn't depress me. It simply makes this time of year so much more exciting. The Lenten and Easter season powerfully reminds us of the love and the grace of God. Here we are on a second-rate planet in a third-rate solar system in a fifth-rate galaxy (or so I have heard our home world described by scientists) - and we are insignificant individuals on that planet, and yet God has loved us with a perfect love, and sent His Son to die for us and redeem us, and has chosen us - chosen ME and chosen YOU to pour out His grace and love upon. The awe and wonder of it all!
Why would God love me - and choose me? The only answer is grace. God's choice for God's own reasons. The why doesn't really matter. What matters is that He has done it! He has not simply included me in a class, but chosen me, called me by name, and claimed me to be His own. He paid dearly for me in blood, sweat, tears, and death. He has fashioned human history so that I would be told the story and then He has worked through His Word to create faith in me, and to sustain me in faith in a world gone mad in unbelief and skepticism. How absolutely remarkable!!
I am not insignificant after all. Oh, in the world I am, I suppose. My fan club is very small - smaller than my ego, I'm afraid. But God has valued me at the value of Jesus, and the whole passion and death of the very Son of God. He makes things happen for me, and when I pray, God stops and listens and considers every word. He and I don't always agree on what I need, or how things ought to be, but He listens to me, and comforts me, and strengthens me, and keeps me - and stubbornly insists on doing what is right and good and best for me, even when I want something less and something easier.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter remind me - overwhelm me - with the thought that insignificant me was counted by God as worthwhile, and worth the cross and the humiliation and the pain, and the grave - and the resurrection! Go figure. Rejoice with me, but go figure!
The Apostle Paul remarked on the wonder of it all: "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus even noted that it was about as big as love can get, "A greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for His friends." Yet that is the very love of God for us - and the value He has placed on each one of us. Jesus died for all - the Bible says that - and yet not all believe. We do, however. We believe because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts and because God has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and sanctified and kept us in the one true faith.
God did not just choose us afterwards, either. He chose me from the foundation of the world. It was that gracious choice that caused Him to send Jesus Christ to the cross, and work out my rescue from the justice of God because in my sin I earned condemnation and death. God could not just let me go once I had earned death, not without becoming a partner in my sin. So He had to devise a way to do the impossible - be just, and the one who justifies the sinner. His solution was the great exchange of Jesus for me, and His holiness for my sins. That is how much God loves me.
And not only me, but you, too. He didn't do all of that for a group - but for each one of us, individually. Just as He did for me, when He spoke my name through the lips of His servant on November 12th 1950, and claimed me by adopting me through Baptism, and gave me eternal life - there has been a moment for each of you when He spoke your name, and said, "Now you are Mine!", and washed you clean and caused you to be born again to eternal life in Jesus Christ. On that day, He made it clear that the Passion and death of Jesus was for you, personally, and not just for the 'hoi polloi'.
We are the significant ones. We are, according to the Word of God, the ones for whom the world exists, and to whom all things belong. We are of such a value to God that He won't let us shortchange ourselves by taking the easy way. He has caused all things to work together so that we have what we need, and that all things work together for our good. He has insured by divine providence that we will take that narrow way of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 7, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."
The world may not change its course because you say you think it should. They might not even save you a parking space near the door at the grocery store, like it seems that they should. But you are of such value and significance that the Creator of all that is knows the number of the hairs on your head, and is making things work out so that you have food and family and the fellowship of His Church. So let the wonder of it all sink in. In this world where we seem so insignificant, we have Good Friday and Easter to remind us of the truth - and we celebrate Maundy Thursday every week, remembering all that Jesus did - all that He counted us worthy of His doing.
Yours in the Lord,
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