Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday’s Sermon- Another Irony

As I wrote this sermon- I couldn’t help notice the irony. I found myself responding to it as if someone else wrote it- Parts of it at the beginning made me cry- not as I was giving it, but as I wrote it. The ideas of independence and the gaining of it, brought me to tears as I realized again what my mother must be going through at the loss of hers. I hope this brought  some peace to those who heard it.

Affirming Whose We Are

There are times in our lives when we wonder who we are? We start off life as helpless little babies, relying on someone else for all of our needs and all of our wants. As we grow, we gain independence- a little at a time. We still rely on others for most of our needs and desires, but slowly we replace that dependence on others with reliance on ourselves.

No longer do we need someone to make us a sandwich or tie our shoes. We can pour our own cereal and milk. We become increasingly independent and we fiercely retain that independence. We learn to read, we learn math skills, we learn how to take care of our daily hygiene. We learn to drive and are able to take ourselves from one place to another- without help.

As children, we are taken the places we need to go. For many of us, we were taken to church- whether we wanted to go or not. It was not always in that category of desire; sometimes it was in the category of need. Our parents or relatives or friends knew we needed to be in church, knew we needed to learn about God and about His love for us. That was not something we could just pick up by reading a book, and it was not something that was taught in school or on the playground.

For many of us, the knowledge that God was important to our lives, that Jesus Christ was more than just a name that was used when someone swore in anger-that knowledge came during those trips to church and Sunday School. They may have come during Youth Group meetings or Confirmation lessons.

For others of us, the seeds of that knowledge were planted, but didn’t take root until we were much older.

And for others of us, those seeds were never planted during our childhood- they were planted through the things others said, through the actions of others, through our reading, through our watching perhaps of television shows like Little House on the Prairie or Touched By an Angel or a Billy Graham Crusade.

As we grow into adulthood, that question of who we are continues. It changes as our life circumstance changes. We start off as daughters and sons and then we may find ourselves as wives or husbands. Or we may expect to someday be a wife or husband but that may not be a path we end up taking. Some of us end up being parents, others of us do not.

Some of us know who we are- and are comfortable in our own skins, but others of us struggle to know exactly who it is we are supposed to be and to accept that knowledge.

And who were are continues to change as we get older. We take on an identity from the work we do. We take on an identity from who our friends are and what activities we enjoy. We are Scout leaders, or musicians. Mountain climbers or poets. We are teachers or we continue to be students- or we are both.

We are dreamers and we are practical. We are farmers and business people, actors and house wives. We are male, female, young and old. We are straight, gay, Hispanic, white, African American, Asian, American Indian. We have our own identities- and yet we still need to know who were.

While we are all here today in church, we are all here for different reasons. Part of that reason for some is for worship. For others of us it is to continue to learn who we are.

And here is the truth- “It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he's doing it everywhere, among everyone.”[1]

If you came here today to learn more about who you are, let me tell you that I can’t look at you and tell you the answer to that question. But more importantly, I can tell you whose you are.

You belong to Jesus Christ. You were loved before you were even born and you will be loved throughout your life, no matter what you do, no matter who you have become. Who you are doesn’t matter nearly as much as your knowledge of whose you are.

Your vocation in life isn’t nearly important as the One who loves you. The One who will never forsake you.

*/*/*/*/** Ad Lib…

If we all knew this- if we could all share this with others, then maybe- just maybe tragedies such as the shootings in Arizona wouldn’t happen. Maybe if everyone knew how much they were loved, they wouldn’t try to destroy others. Maybe if we could affirm whose we are, each and every day we could stop the violence against women and children. Maybe we could stop hate crimes against people who look different, have different lifestyles, have different political or religious views. Maybe if we could affirm whose we are- we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. Maybe we could see that it doesn’t matter if we measure up to the world’s standards, because God loves us. And when we remember that, we can love others. The unlovable, the unworthy, ourselves…

Baptism is a sacrament. It is something sacred. In a sacrament, God uses common elements -- water -- as way or channel of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. We are baptized just once- and in that baptism, whether it was in a Methodist Church, Catholic Church, or a non-denominational church, we were connected with God. Baptism is a gift of God's grace to be received as part of the journey of salvation.

While we are only baptized once in our lives, we can remember our baptism symbolically. Through life giving water, we can remember whose we are. We can affirm who we belong to. And we can know that we are loved.

If you have been baptized, I invite you to come forward and take a handful of water and place it on your own head in remembrance that you are a child of God. If you have not been baptized, but would like to come up for a blessing, please do so as well. And take a moment if you desire to kneel at the rail and pray.

[1] Acts 10:34-35 The Message

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