Part2: To Let God Tell Me Who I Am
Pastor Morris Brown
January 14, 2018
A couple of months ago a friend of mine sent me an email entitled, “Questions People Ought to Ask, But Never Do.” It was a list of questions somebody thinks we should all be asking, but usually don’t. For example, the email said, “If the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, what’s the speed of dark?” Good question!
Then there was this one, “If it’s ‘zero’ degrees today, and the weatherman says it will be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?” Interesting? Finally, there was this one, “If quitters never win, and winners never quit. Who came up with the phrase, ‘Quit while you’re ahead?’” Never thought about it!
Now, to tell you the truth, I don’t think those questions are all that important. In fact, they’re pretty silly! But, as we enter this New Year, there is one question I think we all need to be asking, and it’s not silly at all. In fact, in my opinion it’s incredibly important. The question is this, “Who tells me who I am?”
In other words, “Who or what will give me my basic sense of identity in life? Who or what will give me my sense of self-worth? Who or what will define the purpose of my life?” You see, how we answer that question will make a difference – a difference in the way we feel about ourselves, in the way we’ll live our lives this year.
For example, some people let their money tell them who they are. If they have a lot of it, they feel valuable and important. But, if they lose it, they feel worthless like a failure. Other people allow their status in society tell them who they are. If they are successful or popular, or have an important job then they feel respected, significant. But, if they fail or lose their popularity for some reason, or get laid off, they feel useless. Some people let their possessions tell them who they are. If they have the right clothes or car or live in the right neighborhood, they feel like they are important. But, if they lose their possessions they feel insignificant and empty.
Who tells me who I am? Who tells you who you are? It is an important question. And how we chose to answer it as we begin this New Year will make an incredible difference in our lives. So, as we come to the second message in our iResolve worship series this morning, I would like to invite us to do something. This year, instead of allowing our money, our jobs, our possessions, our status in the community, our success or anything else that is “here today, but could be gone tomorrow” define us. I’d like to invite us all to resolve to “let God tell us who we are.” The question, of course, is how in the world do we do that?
Well, I think we do it the same way Jesus did it, through our baptism. Luke tells us that John was baptizing people in the Jordan River. One day Jesus approached to be baptized by John. As the water dripped from our Lord’s face and he was praying, Luke says “the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him.” Then, Jesus heard a voice come from heaven, which said, “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.” After hearing the voice, the scripture says, “Jesus began his ministry to the world.”
So, how did God use Jesus’ baptism to tell him who he was? How does God use our baptism to tell us who we are? Here’s how!
First, through his baptism God told Jesus he was God’s beloved child.
When Jesus came to the river Jordan he was baptized by John, the gospel of Luke says the heavens opened and Jesus heard the voice of God call from heaven saying, “This is my beloved son. This is my child with whom I am pleased.”
At his baptism Jesus heard the Father say, “I love you! You are my valued child!” Why was this important? It was important because life would not always be easy for Jesus. There would be ups and downs, good times and difficult times, successes and failures. There’d be moments when he was on top of the world. And there would be moments when he felt like he had the world was on top of him. But, no matter what happened, Jesus’ baptism would always remind him of one important thing. It would remind him that he was a beloved child of God. And knowing this, would give him the strength he needed to move forward in in his life.
As you know, tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On this day, we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. – a man who gave his life to promote racial equality and called us to do the same. What you may not know is Martin Luther King, Jr. was named after Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.
It is said that during the reformation Martin Luther, who was a man of deep faith, often experienced very difficult moments. He encountered all kinds of criticism from those who opposed him. He experienced all kinds of personal setbacks as a result of the stand he took. He even endured a number of attempts on his life.
As you can imagine, he sometimes would get down, become despondent, even depressed wondering if he could go on. During these dark and difficult moments, however, it’s said Luther had an interesting practice. He’d go to the wash basin in his room, splash water on his face. Then, as the water dripped his cheeks, Luther would look in the mirror and say “I am baptized! I am baptized! I am baptized! I am a beloved child of God! Whatever happens to me this day, I’m in God’s hands, and all is well.” Doing this reminded Luther no matter how bad things got, he was a beloved child of a God who would always be with him.
Listen, in the coming year things may happen to us that will make us feel worthless, less than valued, unloved. When those things happen, we need to resolve to find the closest source of water, splash it on our faces and say, “I am baptized! I am baptized! I am baptized! God tells me who I am. I’m God’s beloved child!”
Second, through his baptism God told Jesus he had a divine connection.
When Jesus was baptized Luke says, “the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove.” This is a metaphorical way of saying Jesus was connected with a power that would energize him and enable him to do amazing things. Because he was connected with the Holy Spirit of God through his baptism, Jesus had a divine power flowing through him; a power that would enable him to accomplish things that he could not accomplish on his own power – like heal the sick, feed a multitude with limited resources, cast out demons, and raise the dead.
For years I liked to listen to the Saturday evening radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio. If you ever listened to it you may remember that every week an announcer would say, “A Prairie Home Companion is sponsored by Powder Milk Biscuits. They’re the biscuits that come in the big blue box. They’re made from whole wheat raised by Norwegian bachelor farmers, so you know they’re not only good for you, they’re pure - mostly. They give shy people the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done!”
You know, every time I heard that ad on the show I’d wish I could have one of those biscuits. But, the truth is, I don’t need Powder Milk Biscuits and neither do you! That’s because, like Jesus, at our baptism God connected us to a power that’s much greater than Powder Milk Biscuits. At our baptism, we were connected to God’s Holy Spirit who is available to lead us, energize us, help us meet any challenge in life.
As one scholar puts it, “Through our baptism we have been connected to God’s Holy Spirit. We have been given access to an indescribably unlimited resource of power. We have been connected to a power that is willing to help us solve any problem, accomplish any goal, weather any storm life may throw in our way.”
I was thinking about this when I was watching the NCAA football championship last Monday night! If you watched the game, you know Georgia blew Alabama out in the first half because Alabama just couldn’t get their offense going. After halftime; however, Alabama’s coach, Nick Saban, decided to take a chance. He switched quarterbacks! He put the “true freshman,” Tua Tagovailoa, in for senior quarterback, Jalen Hurts. Now, Tua had not started a single game. It should have been a completely overwhelming situation. But if you watched the game, you know what happened. Sorry, Georgia fans, but Tua, played brilliantly.
He went 14-24 for 164 yards and three touchdowns to tie the game. Then, in overtime he hit Devonta Smith with a 41-yard touchdown pass to win the championship. It was as though Tua, who is a person of faith, tapped into a power greater than himself. He connected with a Spirit that enabled him to rise to the challenge.
You know, in the coming year many of us, like Tua, may face situations that feel overwhelming. We may face challenges in our daily lives that seem insurmountable. We may encounter circumstances we feel totally inadequate to handle. When this happens, perhaps we need to resolve to splash some water on our face, and say, “I am baptized! I am baptized! I am baptized! God tells me who I am! I am a person with a divine connection – a connection that will give me the power I need to help me meet every challenge I face in life.” Through baptism God tells Jesus and us that we are God’s beloved child, and we are connected to God’s divine power!
But there’s one final thing! Through his baptism God told Jesus he had a sacred calling.
After he was baptized, Luke says, “Jesus began his ministry.” Isn’t it interesting? Jesus began his ministry after his baptism, not before! Perhaps it was his baptism that helped Jesus realize he was called to use his life to make a difference!
Perhaps it was through his baptism that Jesus felt a sacred call to use his time, his energy, his gifts, his resources to love, heal, encourage, and to serve others. Perhaps it was through his baptism that Jesus understood who he was, a person called to help God transform the world for love. And so it is for each of us!
For you see, when you and I were baptized we were commissioned by God. We were given a sacred calling to begin using our time, our energy, our talents, our resources, and our lives to serve others. Through our baptism, we have all received a sacred calling to let God use our lives to transform God’s world for love.
Now, the truth is, some of us don’t feel like we have a sacred calling. We don’t feel like God could ever use our lives to make a difference. We feel too small, too inadequate, and too insignificant for God to use us to really make a difference in anyone’s life, much less a difference in the world. But, we are wrong!
As you know we have a beautiful pipe organ here at Christ Church. When I look at it I’m reminded of a story about a time when there was no electricity in churches, and organs had to be hand-pumped. There was a young boy in a church whose job was to pump the bellows of the organ while the organist played for worship.
Well, one day, a new organist came to work at the church. He was from the big city and very skilled, which truly impressed the congregation of the church. So, after the service they praised him for his musical ability. When everyone had gone, however, the little boy who had been pumping the organ for him came up and said, “We did a great job today, didn’t we?”
“We?” the organist said, “Young man, it is not ‘we’ who did a great job, it was me! I played the organ!”
The little boy went away disappointed. The next Sunday came, and when the arrogant organist sat down to play the first hymn he lifted his hands high in the air. He brought them down on the keyboard with dramatic flair. But, nothing happened! So, he lifted his hands high once again and brought them down with flair, but once again, nothing. The organist sat there puzzled at what was happening. Then he heard a small voice come from behind the organ.
In a sarcastic tone the voice said, “How’s about we play a song?”
What’s the point? None of us are too small, too unimportant, and too insignificant to be used by God to make an incredible difference in the lives of other people; in the life of God’s world in 2018. So, when we see an opportunity to let God use our lives to make a difference, and we feel inadequate, we need to resolve to splash some water on our face and say, “I am baptized! I am baptized! I am baptized! God tells me who I am. I’m a person with a sacred calling - a person God has called to use my time, my energy, my talents, my resources, my life to make a difference in the lives of others – to transform the world for love!”
So, let me ask once again: In this new year, who will tell us who we are?
Will it be our money? Will it be our job? Will it be our status in society? Or, will it be God? I hope it will be God. For when we let God tell us who we are through our baptism, God tells us things that will make a difference in our lives, and world.
God tells us that we are God’s beloved child. No matter what happens to us this year, no matter what ups or downs we may encounter, we are valued and loved.
God tells us we have a divine connection. Through our baptism we have been connected to God’s Holy Spirit, a power that will help us do what we can’t on our own.
God tells us we are people with a sacred calling. No matter how small or inadequate others may try to make us feel, we are people God wants to use to help transform the world for love. So, let us prepare to come touch the waters of baptism, the waters Jesus touched. Let us come resolving to let God tell us exactly who we are!