Yes, I know. You usually look at my words and despair, so what’s new? You’re rude. Anyways, I want to share with you something that is very special to me. In high school we had a semester we had to read poetry. Yes, I agree. Gross. However, there was one poem that still resonates with me today. Itâ€™s a poem that confronts us with the reality of our smallness. I remember reading it and literally taking a deep breath. I read the poem before I had any real semblance of a personal relationship with Jesus but now, looking through a Christian lense, I can see how much more important this poem is to me. Take a look:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
108 billion people are estimated to have lived on the earth at some point. There are 7.3 billion people alive right now. There are 319 million people living in the United States. Our world is a speck of the sand in the infiniteness of space and our universe. People pass by you in shopping malls, chattering and clicking away on phones. Cars swerve past you on the highway. Old friends post highlights of their lives on the latest social media, reminders of who you used to be. Simply put, you are just one in 108 billion people who have ever lived. 1/108,000,000,000. Look at the stars. Visit a cemetery. Stare down out of an airplane window. If weâ€™re lucky, weâ€™ll be remembered for a few generations and then exist as long as our gravestones resist weathering. We. Are. Small. In the end we will all end up like King Ozymandias; buried under centuries of sand and change.
Sometimes people realize these facts, and sometimes they donâ€™t. Everyone handles it differently. Some invest their whole lives into being remembered in the history books or hall of fames, and a small percentage of those people actually succeed. A very small percentage. Some seek to invest themselves in a family, a group, or a pet knowing that theyâ€™ll be remembered by those who are really close. Some look to be happy with the short time they have here. We all seek to be great, to be loved, and to be happy to different degrees.
It is easy to forget how small we are, but it is even easier to forget how truly big we are. We are one in a hundred billion, but we are the only one. We are the only one with our unique DNA, our fingerprints, our personality, our purpose. While we get caught up in how small we are, we have a Lord and Savior who is constantly reminding us how big we truly are. We have a God who would die for humanity, but also us individually. You and I.
No matter how annoying this song is, it’s still true.
We have a God who would die for us even though we do so many things that should disqualify us from that mercy. His grace is inexhaustible and undeserved. His fountains of grace have our name on them. Itâ€™s so easy to read Scripture and apply readings and findings to the human race, but how often do we disqualify ourselves from what He has to say to us, relegating ourselves to the shadows. Wanting to become another face in the crowd. Does he not rejoice when he sees you in line for Confession, as you participate in his sacrifice every Sunday, when you show a little extra patience to the stressed worker at the drive thru? God loves us collectively, but he loves you perfectly, individually.
This is a message we can never get tired of hearing or proclaiming. This message, the idea that even though we deserve death because of our transgressions but God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die an undeserved death, then rose again on the third day ensuring us our opportunity for salvation, must never go unheard. Some of us have heard the Gospel dozens of times, but this is literally the greatest story in history and it tends to get whitewashed, like so much in our society.
Maybe “beige washed” would be a better term
The Gospel itself has the power to change hearts and minds, to bring color back to our beige lives, but we donâ€™t believe in its power or we are scared to share it. Trust me, people are hungry for this news. They are hungry to know they arenâ€™t just one in a billion. They are hungry to know they are loved. They are hungry, and the Eucharist is waiting to fill them. We donâ€™t need to focus all of our attention on being remembered here on earth and we donâ€™t need statues and pages in a history book. You are special, you have value, and you are perfectly loved.