God made a perfect world, and then . . . we happened. Left to their own devices the birds and fish, insects and reptiles and mammals, would have never created the havoc we have managed to create. We have to admit God knew this was a possibility. At creation the human race was made a little lower than the angels. We were designed for glory and honor and to act as stewards of the earth. But we fell from grace, and instead of harmony, we brought exploitation and chaos. Instead of a well-ordered world, we have a world full of injustice and conflict. At the present time we do not see the world as God intended it to be. But we do see Jesus, who took on flesh and became like us, a little lower than the angels. Jesus IS now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death for us, in order to save us from the power of death.
Hebrews is not a letter. It is a sermon. A very long sermon, I might add! The congregation it was addressed to appear to have started out strong. The Spirit was at work among them. Even persecution did not dampen their passion for God. The author of Hebrews writes: “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10: 32-34)
But the persecution continued, and just as chronic pain wears us down, it wore these people down. Family members and strangers alike objected to the worship of what appeared to be a new god. Christians were suspected of political disloyalty. They seemed to worship someone the government had put to death as a criminal, and refused to worship the state gods. They were accused of family disloyalty because they no longer participated in family worship. Each family had it’s own small gods that looked after it’s welfare, and ancestors had to be venerated as well. Refusing to take part in these religious obligations amounted to an attack on both the welfare of the state and ones own family. The followers of this new religion acted a bit like Jews but they weren’t Jews, and the Jews wanted nothing to do with them. And so, doubts, fears and general weariness set in. People stopped coming to church. Hebrews 10:24-25 reflects this, saying: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing . . .” Attendance was clearly down. Friction was up. And the congregation was in danger of complete collapse.
It’s in this context that the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8. Our version says:
6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor
8  and put everything under their feet.”
Now not to tie you in knots with scholarship, but it is important to point out that the author of Hebrews was quoting the ancient Greek version of Psalm 8 that everyone used at the time, not the Hebrew, and our translation slants towards the Hebrew. The Greek version is in the singular, while the Hebrew could be taken to be either singular or plural. What I am blethering on about is this. They read it as:
What is humanity that you are mindful of them, the Son of Man that you care for him.
You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.”
In Hebrew, because of the way it is written it could be singular or plural. Both meanings are possible, “he” or “they.” But the Greek had to choose, and whoever did the translation chose the singular. This is a perfect example of how easily translation affects theology. For the Early Church and the author of Hebrews, Psalm 8 is clearly all about Jesus. He is the one who has all authority. He was made a little lower than the angels for us, and he is crowned with glory and honor. The interpretation is possible in Hebrew. It’s explicit in Greek.
While we might not be obsessed with the idea of angels, the 1st century was. They considered that invisible spirits of all kinds inhabited the world. Evil spirits could cause much suffering. Constant protection from curses and malevolent beings was necessary. People wore amulets and took all kinds of precautions. Today we take precautions against disease. Then they took precautions against demons. Angels could protect and battle on our behalf. And angels seemed to be clearly superior to humans, because they belonged to the spiritual realm, not the earthly, mortal realm. Angels don’t grow old and die. They do not get colds or the flu. Angels can dwell in heaven and on earth. In fact, a common heresy at the time was that Jesus was not really human at all, but an angel in disguise. In case we think this to be ancient history that is exactly what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. They contend that Jesus is the archangel Michael.
But Hebrews says “No.” Jesus is flesh and blood, and at the same time superior to the angels. It would seem illogical that an incorruptible spirit should be inferior to corruptible flesh and blood, but Jesus chose to take on human flesh to save us. The Son of Man chose to become lower than the angels. God died, in order to defeat the power death has over us.
In their dispiriting situation the author of Hebrews reminds them of just who Jesus is, and just who we are in Christ. God made everything subject to Jesus, even if at the present time it does not look that way. We get discouraged. We see a church that is struggling. We find ourselves surrounded by people who don’t seem to care about spiritual matters. And we see a political world where the voice of the weak is ignored and those in power do whatever they want. Not only is the swamp not drained, the alligators are getting fat. Every abuse that the prophets of old railed against is happening today, and this is nothing new, because human beings of every political persuasion are sinful. But when we are discouraged at the state of the world and the church, when we feel overwhelmed, we must remember to fix our eyes on Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for us, and who is now crowned with glory and honor. Jesus died for us in order that we might live.
The battle of good versus evil is worldwide. We Americans are fortunate by comparison to much of the world, but the struggle is universal, and the war will continue until Christ returns. We can never let our guard down. We can never assume that people in authority will do the right thing. We must always have a means to call one another to account. The water in Flint Michigan was poisoned and it will be poisoned elsewhere if we are not vigilant. Voter suppression of African Americans in the south continues to this day and we have to continue to fight it. And politicians at every level often act in their own self-interest, not in the interest of the people they represent or what is right. But God is bigger than all of this. Ultimately, God wins. No matter how discouraged we may get at times, in the end, God wins.
The majority of churches in America and around the world are small churches. While the mega churches get the attention, it is the small congregations who carry the load. The early church was made up of small congregations. In the 1st and early 2nd century if there were 50 people in a congregation, that was a lot. They met in homes. A church could be 10 to 15 people. But when the group is small, the attacks are more acutely felt, and it is important that we both protect one another and encourage one another. Today is World Communion Sunday, when we acknowledge that we are part of a worldwide body of Christ. We have sisters and brothers in places we have never been. We are spiritually connected to them. We suffer together, and we rejoice together. We are not alone. We are part of the Church Universal, and God is not done working through us yet. We live in the time of the in-between, of what is and what will be, and we are called to be faithful, and to pray, persevere and trust God with our lives, our churches and our world, even and especially when the present time looks dark. Amen

Genesis 1: 26-31
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
8     and put everything under their feet.”
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

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