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Monday, February 27 2017
There’s just something about being on top of a mountain. Any hikers here?? I’m sure you can agree-- there’s just something about standing way up there on top of a mountain, looking out over this fantastic view, drinking in God’s creation. Every time I’ve hiked up to the top of a mountain, and I’ve always done it with other people with me-- and there is always this brief moment when we just get up there and we look out and we are speechless. In awe. It’s a moment suspended in time, when we realize just how great God really is to have created and sustained the world around us.
And throughout history, mountains have been places of direct encounters with God, perhaps because people felt closer to God by being closer to heaven. Ancient peoples built altars on mountains. Oracles and prophets hung out on mountains—think of the typical “old wise man” who chills up on the mountain, waiting for people to hike up to him and ask him life’s questions. Cartoons always show this old guy with a long, flowing white beard sitting on top of a mountain, giving advice (sometimes sarcastically with wise cracks!)
And as we heard in the Exodus reading for today, Moses communicates with God on the top of a mountain numerous times, including the time God wrote down the 10 Commandments. While up there, God would usually give the people a revelation, an important realization.
And in the Gospel story for today, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain. Not surprisingly for us reading, knowing that divine encounters sometimes happen at the top of a mountain, God causes something amazing to happen. Or really, to be clear, God causes lots of amazing things to happen.
Jesus is “transfigured” in front of the three disciples. In the Greek, the word is “metemorphothe,” what we get “metamorphosis” from, like how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Jesus is changed, transformed in that moment. Who he truly is, is revealed. His face shines like the sun, and his clothes become dazzling white. The disciples couldn’t see it before, but now all is revealed. Jesus shows them his true identity. He is God, in human form.
And then, amazingly, Moses and Elijah show up, and talk with Jesus. Moses. The guy who was chosen by God to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, who received the Law, the 10 Commandments, from God. And Elijah. The prophet who did incredible miracles, called God’s people to repentance, and was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. These are no schlubs. These are two of God’s uber-famous representatives, from times past, showing up on a mountain to talk to Jesus.
No wonder Peter wants to do something. His offer to make dwellings for God’s three heavy-hitters is almost comical. Some have said that his offer is because he wishes they all could live there, stay up there on that mountain in that amazing moment, forever living in that “mountaintop experience.” Some people have even said that it was his attempt to “domesticate” the experience, make it into something more understandable.
But the more I read this passage, the more I think that Peter’s offer was really his need to do something, ANYTHING, in the face of God’s greatness. He ends up babbling, offering something completely ludicrous, because he is at a loss for what to do. He is flabbergasted by this divine encounter, this awe-inspiring moment of God’s power and might.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, while Peter is babbling on, offering to make dwelling places, God’s voice comes down from heaven in a cloud, interrupting Peter, echoing much of what was said when Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased, listen to him!” It’s too much. The disciples, experiencing God in such a powerful way, are overcome with fear. They fall to the ground.
Which makes perfect sense, actually. We are only human. God is all powerful, all knowing, beyond our human comprehension. And in those moments when God’s power breaks into our everyday lives, as God still does today, one of the typical reactions is to feel overwhelmed and fearful. We are being touched by the One who gives us life, who created the world, who gives us everything we need. We don’t expect it. We can be overcome and overwhelmed, scared of what how much we don’t know, afraid of the awesome power God has.
I had an experience like that once. When I was helping lead the Alpha Course at another congregation before I came to Zion--- Alpha is the intro to Christianity class which I’ve mentioned a few times in sermons before, that we’ve also run here at Zion-- there is a retreat as part of the course where we focus on who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does. During the retreat, we have a prayer time, during which we invite the Holy Spirit to be present in a new and perceptible way.
And during that prayer time at that retreat, I started to feel… overwhelmed with God’s power. I felt like I was so aware of God’s power that I literally couldn’t hold myself up anymore. I was standing at the time… but because I had never experienced God’s power in this way before, I was scared. I tried to hold myself up, like this—I was scared of what might happen, so I stood like this, bent over, holding myself up with my hands on my knees. And as I stood there like that, scared and overwhelmed, not knowing what would happen, I heard a voice in my head—“Let go.” And then immediately I fell to the ground, in a heap.
But something also happened while I was on the ground. I was no longer scared. Because I had heard that voice that said “let go,” I knew that I didn’t have to be afraid anymore. I knew that God was doing something, moving me in a way I needed to be moved.
Although I had been overwhelmed and scared at the beginning, I knew in those moments while I was on the ground, without a doubt, that God was with me, and loved me. The overwhelming power of God I was feeling was the overwhelming sense of God’s love, for me and for everyone. I had been touched by God, experienced God in a way I never had before, and although it was scary at first, it became an experience of love and mercy and grace that I will never forget.
And the disciples at the top of that mountain would never forget their experience, either. They had been scared and overwhelmed by all they had seen and heard and experienced—God’s power literally knocked them to the ground. But then Jesus came over to them and touched them, and they heard his voice: “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And then all they could see was Jesus.
It doesn’t say how the three disciples felt after that, but I imagine that-- like how I heard God’s voice and felt after I fell to the ground at the Alpha Retreat-- they were no longer afraid and felt Jesus’ love in a powerful way. Jesus literally touches them and tells them that it’s OK, that they can get up and not be afraid. And then all they see in that moment is Jesus, his loving face, loving them no matter what.
I say that Jesus loves them, because of what he says to them. The Greek word Jesus uses for “get up” is actually the verb egeiro, that means “to raise up.” Jesus literally tells them “Be raised.” They are being raised to new life, after this experience of seeing that Jesus is truly God. Their lives are changed forever, knowing Jesus’ identity—their old ways of thinking and living die on this mountaintop, and their new ways of thinking and living begin on this mountaintop. Knowing who Jesus is, is truly life-changing, bringing them to a new life, a life lived with new purpose and meaning.
Because-- although this transfiguration moment of Jesus is important-- what’s most important is how it changed the three disciples that were present. The transfiguration of Jesus, that metamorphosis, didn’t change who Jesus was—just like how a caterpillar changing into a butterfly doesn’t change who it is. It’s still the same caterpillar—it just looks different as a butterfly. Jesus was always God in human form. This mountaintop moment doesn’t change that. It only revealed to the disciples Jesus’ true identity.
And knowing that true identity is what makes all the difference for the disciples. They are changed. Forever. Knowing that Jesus is God and tells them not to be afraid, and tells them to be raised, means that they are not only raised to new life at that moment, but also they will be raised, just as Jesus will be raised. As they come down from that mountain, Jesus tells them that he will suffer—but that he will also be raised from the dead. They share in Jesus’ raising—that resurrection promise is for Jesus, AND for them.
It’s not just the disciples who have this experience. When WE know and experience Jesus’ true identity as God in human form, we are changed, forever. We are raised to a new life, with him. That is the life-changing part.
These revelations, or what some people call “mountain top experiences” in themselves are not the point. It is not about the cloud, or the voice, or the vision, or the shining face and dazzling clothes, or the falling down. The point is what these revelations do to us, how they change us, how they help us to experience God’s love and look at God in new ways.
And this raising up that Jesus talks about, the one that he did when he died and rose again, is something that we share in. Like the disciples, Jesus tells us, “be raised.”
And this raising up is not just something that will happen when we die and when Jesus returns. Jesus raises us up here, now, in the present time. Like the disciples, when we are afraid and can’t stand on our own, Jesus raises us up. When we feel alone, and God feels far away, Jesus raises us up. When life feels like too much for us to handle, Jesus raises us up. Jesus raises us up!
Jesus gives us hope in a world where things can sometimes feel hopeless. Jesus gives us love in a world that can sometimes feel loveless. Jesus, the one who died to save you and rose again, gives us love and mercy and grace and raises us up when we need to be raised.
And when we are raised each time, and Jesus’ true identity as God is revealed to us in those revealing moments—whether they be “mountain top” experiences or just hearing the Good News in a new way-- we are able to say what Peter on that mountain top: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
So, as Jesus told those three disciples on that mountain, and as he tells us every day, “Be raised!” Amen?
Tuesday, February 21 2017
OK, true confessions time. One of my favorite movies growing up was Mary Poppins. I loved that movie. The songs, the kids, the adventures, and the dancing cartoon penguins—what could be better?? I mean, when I was a little kid, and the characters JUMPED INTO A SIDEWALK CHALK DRAWING, I about lost my mind.
The story of a magical nanny coming to change the Banks family’s lives was just so incredible. The scenes right after Mary Poppins arrives are some of my favorites (besides the dancing penguins.They will always be my favorite!)—but the scenes right after Mary Poppins shows up are some of the best in the whole movie, because the kids start to learn that she is no ordinary nanny VERY quickly.
In one scene, Mary Poppins uses a tape measure to measure Jane and Michael. But rather than just telling their height like a normal tape measure, it measures their disposition and attitudes.
First, Mary uses the tape on Michael. She measures him from his head to his feet, then reads the tape: “Just as I thought. Extremely stubborn and suspicious!” Michael’s jaw drops. “I am not!” “See for yourself,” Mary says as she hands him the tape. Sure enough, where she had measured Michael were the words “Extremely stubborn and suspicious.” Jane giggles.
“Now you, Jane,” Mary says as she starts to measure her. Jane’s giggles immediately stop. Mary reads off of the tape for Jane: “Rather inclined to giggle, doesn’t put things away.” Michael laughs.
“How about you?” Michael asks Mary. “Very well,” Mary says. She has Jane hold the tape down as she measures herself. “Just as I expected,” Mary says. The camera zooms in to see what the tape says Mary reads it. “Mary Poppins: Practically perfect in every way.”
“Practically perfect in every way.” It’s this Mary Poppins quote that popped into my head when I read the end of our Bible reading from Matthew’s Gospel today. Jesus says in verse 48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
There’s a difference between Mary Poppins and Jesus—well, ok, there are A LOT of differences between Mary Poppins and Jesus. We won’t go into those now! But there is a difference in what they say. Mary Poppins says she is PRACTICALLY perfect, and Jesus tells us to BE PERFECT. Practically perfect is just shy of being perfect. Jesus tells us to be perfect, period.
Now I don’t know about you, but that scares the heck out of me. How can Jesus tell us to be perfect?? No human being is perfect—except Jesus, of course! And he was God. What are we supposed to do? How can we be perfect???
Well, part of understanding what Jesus is saying is looking at the word translated as “perfect.” The New Testament in the Bible was originally written in Greek, and the word used here is telos. Telos means growing to maturity, or wholeness, or completeness. It really means to grow in our faith and become mature and whole and complete, to become more like God. That sounds a whole lot better than trying to being perfect, right??
OK, so if Jesus is telling us to grow to maturity and wholeness and completeness and become more like God, how do we do that? What does Jesus say about that process?
Let’s look at the beginning of our reading in Matthew, at what Jesus says. [Jesus said to the disciples]: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
Wow, talk about words packing a punch—no pun intended! Let’s unpack this a little. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” That means that if you poke out someone’s eye, you get yours poked out to make it fair. Or if you knock someone’s tooth out, your own tooth gets knocked out.
There are a bunch of passages in the Old Testament that lay out how this works. In Exodus 21:23-25 for example, it says: 23 “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
And this makes sense to us, right? If someone hurts us, we hurt them back the same way. It sounds fair. It sounds like justice.
It also sounds like a vicious, violent cycle.
If every time we get hurt, we hurt someone back-- the cycle of hurt continues. They will continue to hurt us and others, and we will continue to hurt them and others-- and ourselves in the process. Doesn’t exactly sound like a great way to live for the long term.
Jesus calls us to a different way of living. Jesus tells us to not resist evildoers. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to give them our coat AND cloak, to go the extra mile.
Jesus isn’t telling us to be doormats. Jesus isn’t telling us to stay in abusive relationships, and be passive in the face of violence and pain at our expense.
He is giving us a new way to look at power.
If we follow the eye for an eye rule, power lies in how we can hurt each other. Power lies in retaliation and revenge. Power lies in us vs. them.
If we follow Jesus and turn the other cheek, give them more than they take from us, go the extra mile than the one they make us do —our power lies in showing how strong we are by NOT retaliating. Our power and strength is in our ability to rise above the hurt and violence and anger by showing them we will not return violence for violence. We fight back with peace and love and forgiveness.
Our power lies, not in revenge and pain, but in love and forgiveness. We meet evil with forgiveness. We meet hate with love. We break that violent cycle of hurt and pain and violence.
Jesus knows exactly how hard this is to do, because he lived it. When they beat him, mocked him, stripped him, tortured him, nailed him to the cross, he did not fight back. He rose above the violence. He rose above the hate and met the hate with love and forgiveness.
They saw it as Jesus being passive, but what they didn’t know was-- he was more powerful than they were. He met the awfulness with forgiveness and love. “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He asked God the Father to forgive them, even while they were watching him die on the cross. Now THAT is power. That is the power to forgive and to love, even in the face of evil.
Because Jesus lived this power, he knows what it feels like. He knows how hard it is to meet hate and evil with love and forgiveness. But because he did it, he knows how to help us do it. Only with Jesus’ help are we able to rise above our tendency to strike back when we meet violence and hate with our own violence and hate. Jesus shows us a new way, and is there to lead us in that new way of living.
Just look at Mahatma Ghandi, who was able to change the life of those from India who lived in South Africa. He carried the New Testament with him, read Jesus’ words in the Book of Matthew that we have been talking about, and was inspired. The Indians in South Africa were oppressed, beaten, killed—but because of Jesus words and Gandhi’s leadership, and with God’s help, they met that violence and hate with peaceful resistance and love. Ghandi said “’An eye for an eye’ makes all people blind.” He, with God, helped the people break that violent cycle and bring change through peace and forgiveness and love.
Closer to home, look at Martin Luther King, Jr. The fight for civil rights for Blacks in the 1960s was not a picnic. People marching for equal rights dealt with water hoses, dogs, tear gas, beatings, shootings, and death. Yet, they did not match violence and hate with violence and hate. They resisted peacefully and that was even more powerful. They were able to change our country with love and forgiveness and peace. As a Baptist pastor, King knew what Jesus taught. He summarized Jesus’ words about not meeting violence and hate with the same response: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Jesus is helping US change the world just like he helped and informed these huge social movements. Jesus helps us to meet the evil and hate we see in the world with love and forgiveness. We aren’t doing it alone—he is there, giving us the words to say, helping us love in the face of hate. He’s helping us love those who we consider our enemies, those who persecute us. He’s helping us break down those walls and barriers that divide us, helping us to see that hate and fear and separation are not God’s calling for us.
Sometimes it’s the small victories with love over hate that are most powerful. In the early days of his presidency, Calvin Coolidge woke up one morning in his hotel room to find a burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet -- which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! -- declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come to avoid the Secret Service! (And yes, the loan was paid back.)
Coolidge was able to meet the man’s wrongdoing with love and forgiveness, with God’s help. Did it change the whole world in that instant? Not quite, but it changed that college student’s life, and it changed Coolidge’s life. It broke the cycle of hate. And both people were able to continue breaking that cycle of hate with others, with everyone else they came into contact with.
Imagine if we all lived in the way Jesus did and were open to his leading in responding to hate with love. Imagine how different our world would be! You may not think you’re doing much, but by living out Jesus’ words we are changing the world one person at a time—including ourselves. If everyone in our world listened to Jesus and tried to meet violence with love on a regular basis, our world would be, well, “practically perfect!” Our world would be telos—growing to maturity, complete, whole, becoming more like God.
So I invite you to listen for how Jesus is helping you to break the cycle of violence and hate. How is Jesus working in your own life to help you look hate and evil in the face and meet it with love and forgiveness? How is Jesus helping you rise above and use your power in peaceful resistance rather than pain? How is Jesus helping you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, to break down walls and barriers of hate and fear between people? How is Jesus using YOU to change the world and break the cycle of violence and hate? Amen?
Monday, February 13 2017
6 Epiphany A; 1 Cor 3:1-9
Zion CC; 2/11 & 12/17
It was a typical Sunday morning in my field education church in the inner city of Philadelphia. Everything and everyone was running about 15 minutes late, including the church musician. Besides the normal delay, however, the service went relatively smoothly, which was always a blessing at this particular church. The only thing that seemed a little off was that during the service, the Chair of the Worship Committee, Clyde, and the Chair of the Women of the ELCA chapter at the church, Ellen, seemed to be more obvious about their feelings for each other than usual.
When I say “feelings,” I don’t mean the warm and fuzzy kind. I mean the “I hate the way you look, I hate the way you smell, I can’t stand to be breathing the same air as you” kind. Clyde and Ellen had disliked each other as long as anyone could remember. They had a sort of “sibling rivalry,” in which they tended to vie for similar leadership roles and get on each other’s nerves while doing it. Both were on Church Council, and the Pastor (and I!) had to spend much of our time keeping them from being at each other’s throats during meetings, and everyone knew of their constant feuds. Members of the congregation typically took sides each time they blew up at one another.
And most recently, both of them had run for the position of chair of the Worship Committee—and Clyde had won. Ellen was very upset about this, and was very vocal about her disapproval of being “beat out” for the position. Shortly after that, she was voted into the chair position of WELCA—probably because congregation members wanted to appease her, and thought that giving her another leadership role to excel at would keep the two from strangling each other in their sleep.
The Sunday in question was about 2 weeks after both of these positions had been elected, and after worship service Ellen and one other church member were in the back of the church counting the offering taken up during the service. Clyde, probably knowing that using his power as the newly-elected Worship chair would irk Ellen, began to berate Ellen and the other counter for not counting the offering “correctly,” or how he thought the correct way should be. This display of power of course sent Ellen into a rage, which sent Clyde into a rage, which resulted in the screaming of obscenities, name-calling, and hand gestures that I wish I could forget. When Ellen came to the pastor and I about what had happened right after the incident, both of us calmly suggested that, although Clyde’s actions may not have been appropriate, perhaps her actions may not have been Christ-like. Her response? “I know they weren’t. So I looked up to Jesus before I said it and said “Lord, forgive me for what I’m about to do!-- And then I let him have it!”
As you probably guessed already, arguments about leadership in the Church are not new. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see similar things happening. It seems that there are at least two major leaders in the congregation at Corinth—Paul and Apollos. Both have worked hard. Great things have happened through their leadership. People were excited about what they saw happening. All would be well if it ended there.
But it doesn’t end there. Church members end up taking sides, based on which leader they like better. There is a Team Paul, and a Team Apollos. “I belong to Paul!” shouts Team Paul. “I belong to Apollos!” shouts back Team Apollos. And people taking sides, people joining one of these two teams, has effectively split the church. And not only that, each church member’s identity is wrapped up in which leader they follow and prefer. Who they are and how they think about themselves is based on which leader they identify with. It’s that one leader, and how that one person does things, that defines each person at Corinth.
We would be kidding ourselves if we said that this was not a problem for us today. We still cling to certain leaders for our identity. Having able-bodied leaders is great—under great leadership, a community flourishes. It’s when community members cling to a certain leader at the exclusion of everything else that problems occur. The focus of the community becomes a certain leader-- but eventually something will change. Another leader will come and work with that first leader, or that first leader will leave and another will come in his or her place. And factions form. Arguments ensue. People leave. A community that has its identity wrapped up in a certain leader for too long will ultimately deteriorate.
And it doesn’t just apply to choosing sides with certain leaders. We let many other external things define who we are, define our identity. Our jobs. Money. How many possessions we have. Having a certain degree. Living in a certain area. Owning a certain car. Our spouse. Our children’s accomplishments. These things are part of who we are, yes, but we sometimes cling to these things, let them define our identity. Who we are, how we see ourselves, is wrapped up in these things.
And this is a huge problem. Because these things are not eternal. They will go away, or die, or change. If your identity is based on your job, you will have an identity crisis when you are laid off, or retire. If your identity is based on how much money you have, you will freak out when the economy goes downhill. If your identity is based on your children’s accomplishments and they stop performing as well as they were previously, you will wonder who you actually are. We can let these things define us, and when they change or leave or go away we no longer know who we are or what we should be doing.
I saw this happen when I lived in a town of 800 people in the cornfields of Nebraska. In many rural communities, the big thing on everyone’s mind is their high school football team. Practically the whole town shows up for games. Most of the town follows the team when they play away games. Cheering for their high school football team is a big part of the town’s identity.
And the high school football players on these small town teams are the same way. A lot of times, their identities are wrapped up in being a football player on that team. It’s their life, literally. And when they graduate and are no longer on the team, they lose their identity, who they are. They end up as older adults, still meeting up at the bar every Friday and Saturday night, talking about their glory days on the high school football team. Without that identity as a football player, their lives lose meaning. They no longer know who they are or what they should be doing.
And the church members in Corinth were the same way—because their identity was wrapped up in certain leaders, they became lost. They no longer knew who they were. They no longer had any direction.
But Paul offers up a new way of looking at things. “What then is Apollos?” he asks. “What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
What Paul is saying is pretty clear. It’s not about the leaders! It’s not about whether you prefer Apollos, or you prefer Paul. They are just doing the work God gave them.
And not only that, but God is the one who “gives the growth,” who makes things happen. It wasn’t the leaders on their own. They were given the task by God, and given the gifts to do that task by God—and God the Holy Spirit is the one who brought faith to this community. It is the Holy Spirit who gave the Corinthians their many gifts. It is the Holy Spirit who grew the church at Corinth. And it is God the son, Jesus Christ, who gives them each their life’s purpose, their identity. They are followers of Jesus, workers in the kingdom. That is their identity.
And that is our identity. We no longer have to base our identities on what our kids do, what job we have, how much money we can spend, who our leaders are. Those things can always change, can always go away.
But our identity through Jesus doesn’t. It never changes. It never goes away. Jesus died for you, so that you can be free to live for him-- and that will always define who you are.
One of my friends grew up in a house where Christianity was a huge part of their family life. And whenever she and her siblings would leave to go to school in the morning, one of her parents would always yell out the door as they left: “Remember whose you are!”
Now most neighbors hearing that would assume her parents meant that they shouldn’t forget that they are a member of that family. But my friend and her brothers and sisters knew that it was more than that—it was to remind them that they are God’s children. Still today when she leaves the house to go to work, she hears her parents’ voice in her head, reminding her not to remember that she is God’s child.
And we hear that voice, reminding us that we are God’s children. We hear it through Scripture—Paul reminds us through his words to the Corinthians that as followers of Jesus we are God’s own, and God gives our work growth. We hear it through other people—when others share God’s love with us, when someone forgives us. We hear it through Holy Communion, when we experience God’s love and Jesus’ presence through the bread and wine and remember Jesus’ death and resurrection, for us. We hear it through God’s creation, when we look around at what God has created and know that God created us too. We hear it when we hear God’s still, small voice telling us that we can do it, when everyone else tells us we can’t.
We are God’s own children. And because we are God’s children, we are all working together for God’s purpose. As Paul says, we all have a common purpose, whether we plant or water-- whether we teach or count money, whether we play an instrument or fix pipes, whether we counsel people or make coffee-- we are God’s own field, God’s own building. We all have been given different gifts, but all for the same purpose—to work for the glory of God. We are united in our purpose. We are united as followers of Christ in our work to share God’s love with others, to help those who need our help, to bring Christ’s light into a world longing for light. And while we work, we know that it is God who gives the growth, who provides us with what we need as we serve in our common purpose.
You are God’s child. And you will always be God’s child. You are claimed by God, forgiven by God, loved by God. And as you go from this church later this evening/morning, as you go about your day, as you go about your week, hear that voice in your head, that reminder: “Remember whose you are!” THAT is your identity. Amen?