I John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12; Revelation 7:9-17
[Sing] “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? I really want to know…”
Hey! Do you know who you are? Do you really know who you are? We’re going to talk about that today, but first I want to ask you a question. And there’s no need to raise your hand, but have you or someone you know ever been a victim of identity theft?
When we learned about the Equifax security breach that occurred just a few months ago – did you check to see if you were among the 143 million Americans whose personal information had been compromised?
Now, you know what identity theft is. Someone wants to pretend to be you – so they can rip you off – or rep off the financial institutions that you do business with. They get your personal information – social security number, driver’s license info, bank account information, credit card numbers, and even your medical insurance account numbers – all of these kinds of information about you can be stolen and used to create a fake you!
Identity theft as you know is a serious crime. We need to be vigilant – we need to be watchful – we need to take care that all of those personal data pieces that we use to identify ourselves to the government and financial institutions – these date pieces that are a part of who we are – we need to take care that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Because once stolen, someone else can cause real damage to us financially – not to mention the time and money needed to undo the damage that can be done.
Now, I hope I haven’t made you paranoid about all of this stuff, because that is certainly not my intent. But I would caution you to take care with your personal information.
Listen! No matter what would be identity thieves might want to do to us – there is a part of who you are that no thief can ever take away. That’s why I really love our reading today from I John chapter 3. Listen to it again:
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
So [Sing] “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? I really want to know…”
Who are you? According to what the Scripture tells us here in I John, we who are disciples of Jesus Christ – we are children of God. Again – this is who you are – and it is something that cannot be taken away from you. I want to tell a story that I may have used before – I don’t remember – but it’s really good. In fact, it’s been told so many times that you may have heard it from some other preacher some other time.
This is a story told years ago by the late seminary professor Fred Craddock, who tells of going back one summer to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to take a short vacation with his wife. One night they found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal – just the two of them.
While they were waiting for their meal they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” He didn’t want the man to intrude on their privacy.
But the man did come by their table.
“Where you folks from?” he asked amicably.
“Oklahoma,” Craddock replied.
“Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there,” said the white-haired man. “What do you do for a living?”
“I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University,” Craddock answered.
“Oh, so you teach preachers, do you? Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you.” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly. Oh no, here comes another preacher story. It seems everyone has one.
The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my classmates cut so deeply.
“What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through me. They were all wondering just who my real father was.
“When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking at me.
“‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ the preacher asked.
“I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big, black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down.
“But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition.
“Wait a minute,’ he said, ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God.’
“With that he slapped me across the rump and said, `Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’”
The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, “That was the most important single sentence ever said to me.” With that he smiled, shook the hands of Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.
Suddenly, Fred Craddock remembered. On two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected the son of an unwed mother to be their governor. His name was Ben Hooper.
Folks – let me tell you. I know who you are. I can see the family resemblance in every single one of you. You are a son – you are a daughter of God. Terrible things happen to people when they forget who they are. Some of them forget their values. Some of them lose their sense of purpose. All of them lose their joy.
Today is All Saints’ Day. One of the things that we do this day is to remember those people – those saints – who have gone on before us. And as I tell you every year, we are all saints. That’s what the Bible calls all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ. If you are a son – if you are a daughter of God – then you are a saint. Not because you or I or any of those who have gone before us are perfect. You see, unlike popular usage of the word saint – the title “saint” is not just a word used to describe super Christians from the past. No. It also applies to just ordinary folks like you and me.
So you are a saint. If Jesus is your Lord and your Savior – then you are a saint. That’s who you are. And maybe some of you are struggling with that right now. But once we realize who we are in God’s eyes – then we also realize that we are people of great value. Al because we are daughters and sons of God. All because we belong to God.
A number of years ago, an auction was held. The money that was bid for the objects that were auctioned off was far higher than one would expect to be paid under other circumstances. For example, the winning bid for a rocking chair that had been valued between $3,000 and $5,000 was $453,500.00. And that’s the kind of bidding that went on all day at this auction. For four days articles of common, ordinary value were sold for wildly inflated prices. Why? Because the value of the items auctioned sold on the basis of the one to whom they had once belonged. The items sold had once belonged to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Look! I want you to know that you are of inestimable value. And it’s all because of the worth placed on you by the One to whom you belong. You are loved and you are valued so much that the Father gave his one and only son to free you from sin, death and the power of the devil.
[Sing] “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?” Folks – let me tell you. I know who you are. You are one of God’s saints. I can see the family resemblance in every single one of you. You are a son – you are a daughter of God. Never forget that! Never forget who you are! Amen