I wonder if you can think of a time when you really felt important. It might have been at work, where you solved a problem that nobody else had. It might have been while playing a sport, when you scored a point that brought your team victory. It might have been a time when you got to meet someone you had long admitted and they took an interest in you.
I wonder, now, if you can think of a time when you felt unimportant. It might have been a time when people didn’t listen to what you were saying, or a time when others took the credit for work you had done, or when it seemed that no one noticed that you were around, or when your offer to help was ignored or forgotten.
My guess is that more of you will have found it easier to think of times when you have felt unimportant than of times when you felt important. Now, part of that may be down to our natural Scottish modesty. Most of us will have been brought up not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Boastfulness and self-importance and arrogance are never attractive and we, mostly, try to avoid them. But take it too far, overdo the modesty, the self-effacement, and that can turn out to be harmful. Many of us will have experienced, and all will have known others who have experienced, a sense of worthlessness, of insignificance that can lead to depression and self-harm.
Our Bible texts today, the Old Testament ones more than the New Testament ones, have something to say about this. Today is Trinity Sunday, that notoriously difficult Sunday on which to preach, but this year our Bible texts, the three we read and the one, the Psalm, we sang, are all, in some way, about our place in the family of God, our place within the overlapping circles, within the triangle, the Trinity, that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In John, Jesus speaks of the ongoing revelation of the Father through the Spirit drawing us closer and closer into God. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians of God’s love being poured into us. But these short passages leave unanswered the question – why? That’s where the Old Testament texts come in.
Both are about Creation. Proverbs offers us a rather beautiful personification of wisdom, which John the Evangelist later identified as Christ. It is, we learn, because God is wise that God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. It is because God is wise that God delights that the world is inhabited, and particularly because it is inhabited by us, human beings.
This idea maybe flies in the face of what we would expect. What are human beings but cruel, destructive, ungrateful, rebellious creatures? Isn’t that what the church, and history, have taught? How can it be a mark of God’s wisdom that he delights in us?
Cruel, destructive, ungrateful and rebellious though we may be, when we look at the psalm for today, Psalm 8, we see how God actually thinks of us. The Psalmist reveals that God regards us as only a little lower than the angels, that God has crowned us with honour and glory, that God has given us dominion over all the works of his hand.
We were thinking a moment ago about importance, about feeling important and feeling unimportant. These ancient texts are telling us something that we need always to remember. They are telling us that we are important to God. We are important to God because God values us, not for what we do, or who we are, or what we are like, but because we are the work of his hands, a pivotal part of his creation, a part to which is entrusted special responsibility.
As Christian Aid Week draws to a close, this is a good thought to bear in mind. Through the video we watched together, we were given a glimpse into a life very different from our won, but we are reminded that Morsheda and her children, and and people like her, are important, as important as us, because, like us, she is important to God. Through God who loves us all, we are connected to her, and Christian Aid simply makes that connection a little more tangible, by telling us her story, by showing us her home, by letting us see a little of her way of life.
It is this realisation of the connectedness of humanity through God and in God that lies at the heart of Christian Aid’s work, and arguably at the heart of our whole vocation for be followers of Christ. Sensing these connections should change us, change us from being cruel to being kind; from being destructive to helping to build up, to repair and to renew; from being ungrateful to being thankful; from being rebellious to being obedient to God. I believe that’s what makes Christian Aid different from other charities, excellent though so many are. It is never enough just to give some money. Giving money does not discharge our whole responsibility to suffering humanity. Involvement with Christian Aid is also, always, about personal change and renewal, about loving as much as about giving.
In that, it is simply an expression of all the Christian faith should be. We love because God loved us first. We serve because God in Christ came to be the servant of all and to show us that everyone, no matter who we are, no matter where or how we live, is important to God.