A little lower than the angels


Psalm 8

File:Homeless and cold.jpg

photocredit: Ed Yourdon

1O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I went to meet my daughter for breakfast in the city this morning. She is here for work this week. It is good for me that work brings her out every few months.

I have so many thoughts about city life. There is certainly the energy and buzz that comes from so many people in such a small space. People even walk faster in the city. And then there are all those things that come with urban life: museums, historic churches, restaurants, stores of every kind and scale. But there is also that woman on a well-worn blanket huddled up against the edge of a building, reaching out to every woman that passed, but avoiding the glance of every man.

There were people doing Tai Chi in the park and pigeons trying to feed on the bushes in the median of the street. Pigeons aren’t adept at perching on branches, but these were valiant in their effort. There were the young suits coming in to one restaurant for an upscale breakfast, and the open doors of St. Patrick’s in anticipation of 7:30 mass. Sky cranes tended watch over rising apartments and a seagull tended loud triumph over something that looked suspiciously like a black plastic bag.

What is man that thou art mindful of him? our psalmist asks. Or, less poetically, but more politically correct, What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

What is this human creature that you regard him so? Why do you care what becomes of them?

And why should you entrust into our care – it is, after all, about himself that the psalmist writes – why should you entrust this precious creation into our hands? Why should you rank us just below the elohim* in honor?

It is not by chance that the woman on the blanket avoided the glance of men. Some terrible story hides there. Some story that betrays all the honor God has given to humanity. Even as her huddled presence is a sign of our betrayal of the charge to care for God’s precious world. She is the body of the crucified.

Yet God cares. And he works and he calls and he lets us fall and picks us up as any parent of any troubled child, continuing to love, and continuing to create the possibilities for us to “find ourselves”, to “get it together,” to rediscover our true humanity, to rise from the bean pods and make our way home.


*The elohim are the heavenly beings around the throne of God, hence some translations say ‘angels’, though more likely the image is of the gods of the nations gathered around God’s throne and comprising God’s royal court. This same word is also used in scripture as the word ‘God’, but in this psalm God is referred to by the divine name indicated by the translation ‘LORD’.


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