One of many or unique?

Do you get lost in the crowd and are you just part of a crowd? Or are you something special? (Psalm 139)

Worship service, , , Kreuzkirche Leichlingen, more...

automatically translated


Are we humans alone in the universe? Are there similarly intelligent beings on other planets?

What primarily distinguishes humans from animals are these metaphysical questions: the question of meaning and, of course, the question of God. According to what we know today, animals do not ask themselves such questions.

Perhaps there are other intelligent beings somewhere in the universe who are pursuing such questions. Many planets outside our solar system, so-called exoplanets, have already been discovered. And some of them could be habitable in terms of their size and distance from their star.

Of course, we don't know exactly because we can only determine this very indirectly, but even if we did, it doesn't really matter for our life. Information cannot be transmitted faster than the speed of light and even if there were intelligent life at the nearest neighbouring star, it would still be 4 light years away. Communication would then be difficult.

OK, so it's not important whether humanity is unique in the universe.

What about the individual person? How unique or how important is a single person?

I remembered an incident from 1977, some of you may remember, when there were terrorist attacks by the RAF, the so-called German Autumn.

The terrorist organisation RAF kidnapped Hanns Martin Schleyer, then president of the employers' association, and subsequently murdered him. I won't go into the details now, but if you're interested, you can read about it on Wikipedia.

The driver and three accompanying police officers were also murdered during the kidnapping.

A concert hall was then named after Hanns Martin Schleyer, as were a foundation and various streets.

I asked myself: why wasn't the hall named after the driver or after one of the three policemen? Heinz Marcisz, Reinhold Brändle, Helmut Ulmer and Roland Pieler. Nobody knows these names. Is Schleyer more important than these people?

In addition, Schleyer was a pretty staunch Nazi during the Third Reich. From 1943, for example, he was active in an association for the Aryanisation of the Czech economy and the procurement of forced labourers for the German Reich. He rose to become head of the presidential office of this association. He was also an SS-Hauptsturmführer, spent three years as a prisoner of war in the USA after the war and would probably have remained in prison if he had not lied about his SS rank during the denazification process.

Naming a concert hall after a former hardcore Nazi? Hmm. But thinking about it another way: if this hall had been named after the driver, for example, would that somehow have justified the murder back then? That would also be wrong.

But I would still have liked to see the minor figures honoured in the same way as the apparent celebrities, at least from the media's point of view. So why not a Heinz Marcisz Hall?

Let us now leave politics and take the question with us: Who is important and why?

Psalm 139

I would like to read Psalm 139 to you:

1 For the choirmaster: A Psalm of David. Lord, you have tested my heart and know everything about me. 2 When I sit down or when I get up, you know it. You know all my thoughts. 3 When I walk or when I rest, you see it and are familiar with everything I do. 4 And you, Lord, know what I want to say even before I say it. 5 You are before me and behind me and lay your protective hand on me. 6 This knowledge is too marvellous for me, too great for me to comprehend! 7 Where should I flee from your spirit, and where could I escape your presence? 8 If I fly up to heaven, you are there; if I descend to the realm of the dead, you are there too. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn or dwell on the farthest sea, 10 your hand will guide me there too, and your strong arm will hold me. 11 If I asked the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night, 12 I could not hide from you, for the night shines as brightly as the day and the darkness as the light. 13 You created everything in me and formed me in my mother's womb. 14 I thank you that you have made me so marvellous and excellent! Wonderful are your works, I know that well. 15 You watched as I was formed in secret, as I was formed in the darkness of my mother's womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was written in your book. Every moment was fixed even before the first day began. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, God! They are infinitely many. 18 If I wanted to count them, they are more numerous than the sand! And when I awake in the morning, I am still with you! 19 God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Away with you from my life, you murderers! 20 They mock you and rebel against you. 21 Should I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and should I not despise those who oppose you? 22 Yes, I hate them with all my heart, for your enemies are also my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 Show me when I go astray, and lead me in the way to eternal life.

What does this actually have to do with the story from the 70s?

The psalmist describes his personal closeness to God here. He experiences that he is incredibly important to God; the almighty God cares for him personally. But he is not just important as one of many, he is downright unique to God.

And I believe that applies to all of us.

Let's go through the individual points:

God knows me exactly

He has tested my heart, which means he knows my attitude, my mindset, he knows what I am really like.

He knows my thoughts and plans, my goals and also my dreams.

No matter what we say or do, he understands why we do it.

That might sound a bit like surveillance, but it's more about the fact that he takes a positive interest in us and therefore knows us inside out.

There is no judgement here about acting and thinking. It is only about understanding.

And the psalmist is fundamentally convinced that God wants to protect him.

God is always with me

You cannot escape God's presence. Up in heaven or down in the realm of the dead, God is there. At the farthest sea or in the darkness, you cannot hide from God. At the top, at the bottom, far away or in the dark, this is a very poetic description of the fact that God is with you, no matter where you are.

The negative view would be that you can't escape God, the positive view is that you can't lose God and I'm happy about that.

The psalmist is certain that God will guide him, even when he is far away. And even in every darkness, God's light still shines.

A human being as God's plan

And every person is God's plan. I'll read that out again:

13 You created everything in me and formed me in my mother's womb. 14 I thank you that you have made me so marvellous and excellent! Wonderful are your works, I know that well. 15 You saw how I was formed in secret, how I was formed in the darkness of my mother's womb.16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was written in your book. Every moment was fixed even before the first day began.

And here we are back to the unique.

Every human being is worthy of having a concert hall named after them, even a planet could be named after every human being, because they are marvellous, excellent and wonderfully made, unique.

Of course we don't feel like that. Maybe we have some kind of infirmity, maybe we've already thrown a few things against the wall in our lives. We're nothing special after all.

Yes, each of us is special, unique and at least God knows it.

God's thoughts

The psalmist also ponders God's thoughts.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, God! They are infinitely many. 18 If I wanted to count them, they are more numerous than the sand! And when I awake in the morning, I am still with you!

This expression "about me" is also given as "for me" in other translations. The original Hebrew word allows both translations.

Knowing what God thinks seems absurd, doesn't it? How do you come to that conclusion? It's not about knowing or analysing, but about the awareness that God is thinking about you, that God is there with his thoughts.

And God's thoughts are also with you. Because you are important and unique.

Anger and hatred?

And then comes a somewhat inappropriate passage in this psalm.

Anger and hatred, how does that fit?

"God, if only you would destroy the wicked!..."

We realise here that such a psalm is not a teaching text or a legal text. There are people who believe that Christians must do everything that is written in the Bible. They imagine the Bible to be a law book and Christians are will-less zombies who obey everything without thinking.

This psalm makes it clear that this is not the case. The psalmist ponders everything intensively.

But he gets a thick throat over people who reject God, he is angry. This also makes it clear that such psalms are actually songs in which thoughts and feelings are expressed and sometimes you have aggression and anger in you, which is probably the case for everyone.

Incidentally, the New Testament makes it quite clear that such feelings are not necessarily right and certainly not helpful.

Romans 12:17-21; NL describes this beautifully:

17 Do not repay evil for evil, but do your best to do good to everyone. 18 Do your part to live in peace with others as much as possible. 19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves, but leave vengeance to the wrath of God. For it is written, "I alone will take vengeance; I alone will repay the wicked," says the Lord. 20 Instead, act as the Scripture says: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink, and he will be ashamed of what he has done to you." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Great verses, but really difficult. Often enough one would rather cry out with the psalmist: God, give them one over.

But the psalmist does not stop at his anger and hatred.

Explore with God and know my heart

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 Show me when I am going astray and guide me along the path to eternal life.

Do we really want to be scrutinised by God?

Or do we like "I want to stay the way I am" better? Or in short: "I'm just like this!"

I think it's wrong to live like this, you often cause yourself and others enough grief.

The problem is, of course, who tells you what is right? There are plenty of examples where the truth is attached to people or groups. That's nice and convenient. It also exists in society, where some people proudly claim that they think for themselves, but ultimately only rely on strange YouTube videos by strange people.

What is the path to eternal life? That's where the question of how to do it properly comes in.

And that brings us to Jesus Christ. It is said about him at the beginning of the Gospel of John that he is the true light that enlightens all people (John 1:9). With Jesus we find the way to eternal life. He says this himself (John 14:6; NL):

I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Of course, it would be easier to say that the truth exists here in our community, only here on our YouTube channel. But that wouldn't be right.

We do these services to the best of our knowledge and belief as naturally imperfect and flawed human beings. Certainly some points in this sermon were also so clear, perhaps the comparison with Schleyer at the beginning was a stupid introduction, it just seemed somehow appropriate to me.

But we as a church would like to share this truth, this Jesus Christ, with many others and also help people in practical ways.

Helping people practically and spreading the word about Jesus belong together. A church that forgoes one or the other will lose its edge and ultimately lose its raison d'être.

Here, too, we as Christians must question ourselves: What is our intention and our goal?

If there is anyone out there who would like to join in with ideas and energy to tell others about Jesus and help people, please contact us.

We only know approximately how many people are watching, but we only know who they are to some extent.

"Show us when we are going the wrong way and lead us the way to eternal life."


Let me summarise.