Who, Me?

As we start off this morning, I want you to find a blank corner of your bulletin or the hymn sheet and scriptures, and I want you to write on that corner one thing that you are personally good at. What is one thing that you know how to do and do fairly well.

Turn to one other person and share what that one thing is that you are good at doing and sometime recently when you got to use that skill or talent.

Thank you all for sharing! We will turn back to those slips of paper in just a moment, but for now, will you pray with me?

This past Wednesday night during our weekly communion service, we wrestled a bit with our gospel lesson from this morning. Who do YOU say Jesus is? How would you describe him to friends or neighbors?

We talked about our various answers, we had communion and sang and headed home… but one lingering thought has been stuck with me ever since.

This question – “Who do you say that I am?” comes up in two different gospels. Here and in Mark. In Mark, Peter gets the answer right, but is almost immediately berated because he challenges Jesus – he doesn’t want Jesus to suffer and die.

But here, Peter is praised. God bless you, Simon bar Jonah! You are my rock, petra, Peter and on you I will build my church.

The difference between these two is striking. The two gospel passages recount the exact same event, but with very different outcomes. So there is something deeper going on here… the passage is not just telling us about a conversation that took place. It wants to teach US something about how we respond.

In Mark, Peter hears about the plans of God and immediately rejects them. He wants to do it his way, with his idea of success. He already has it all figured out in his mind, and Jesus is getting in the way.

But in Matthew’s gospel, Peter doesn’t even get that chance. Jesus immediately turns to him and says – yep, you are right, that is who I am…. Now let me tell you who you are… really are.

What Matthew does here is share with us a timeless truth… when we meet Jesus face to face – when we recognize who he truly is… then we understand who we are and what we have to offer at the same time. We begin to see how everything we have and everything we are fits into God’s plans.

Last week, in Romans, we talked some about the vine and the branches. The branches have no identity outside of their core, their roots. So as soon as we know who we are connected to, Jesus Christ – we know what we are supposed to do.

I want you to find that piece of paper that you wrote on this morning. It might describe some kind of talent or skill, something you trained long and hard to learn, a gift that came naturally for you. Whatever it is, it is something you see within yourself.

Hanging on to that word or phrase, I want you to hear what Paul writes to us from Romans chapter 12.

You see… he continues his message from last week about what it means to be connected to Jesus Christ.

Hear these words from the Message translation:

Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

This slip of paper does not represent something that you own or possess or even have control of. It represents something that God has given to you. It represents a part of God’s plan for this world. It represents one way in which the Body of Christ, the church, is called to share the love of God.

Have you ever thought about what is written on your slip of paper that way?
Have you ever thought about how your cooking or knitting or carpentry was a part of God’s plan for this world? Or how your mechanical skills or photography or singing could bring the love of God to your neighbors? Or how your laughter or negotiating skills or sense of direction could be used to share the gospel? How your mathematical sensibility or your hard work or your ability to listen is an integral and important part of the church?
Or is your first response whenever the call of Jesus Christ comes to look around and say, “who, me?”
When I was in junior high and high school I loved speaking in front of people. I was always the first with my hand up when it came time to read out lout in class. I tried out for every play and musical. I signed up for speech contests. I competed, I practiced, I simply loved doing it.
Speaking in front of people came easily to me. It was never something I had to think twice about. I knew that in whatever field of work I chose, this skill would be useful. It was something in the background, something I could fall back on, something I never had to think that much about.
But one day in college, I was asked to prepare a sermon for our campus worship. Easy-peasy… I had written speeches before. And I had preached before as a part of my youth group. I didn’t worry too much about it. In the midst of the preparation however, in the midst of my wrestling with the text and really trying to find God in the middle, something in my clicked.
I realized that I wasn’t just writing a speech. I was sharing God’s love with people. I wasn’t just talking about something I knew… I was talking about something that I had experienced. I wasn’t up there acting or putting on a persona… this was real. This is what I was made for. God wanted me to share his good news with people. God created me to do this!
As Paul tells the people of Rome and by extension us… we are like the parts of a body. We get our meaning from the body as a whole – our gifts and skills find their purpose only in relation to these other people and parts of God’s family.
I want you to think for just a second about what this church would be like if I refused to get up and preach on Sunday mornings. If I decided to keep my gifts to myself, instead of sharing them.
Take a good hard look at what is written on your slip of paper. You have something unique and beautiful and powerful to offer. You are called by God to do amazing things. Yes, YOU.
So… Do you share that gift with the church? Have you let Jesus show you how you can make a difference?
This whole room is filled with amazing skills and functions and talents. With each of those gifts offered back to God, this church would be absolutely unstoppable.
As Paul writes: since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, lets just go ahead and be what we were made to be.
In everything you do, in everything that you offer, from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits your pillow at night – ask how God can use you. Take those gifts you have and share God’s love through every goodbye you make in the morning and every meal you deliver to the elderly in our community and in every car your fix and in every meeting you have at work. Share the good news through every post you make on facebook and every class you have at school and in every game you play.
You don’t have to wear Christian t-shirts or go around saying “Jesus Loves You” to every person… just do what you do with integrity, with love, with compassion. Paul breaks it down like this:

If you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

We are the body of Christ. We are his living, breathing, hands and feet in this world. In everything you do… let God’s will shine through.

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