Monday, January 11, 2016

God's Proclamations!

In our texts this morning what we have are proclamations from God.
Proclamations about who Jesus is, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
And because we are baptized into Christ Jesus these are proclamations that we share as children of God.
Proclamations about who we are, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
In our baptisms God proclaims to us these Biblical truths.
That we are God’s forever, and no matter what we can’t lose God.
Because we have not chosen God, but God has chosen us.
God has called us by name and redeemed us.

I know that these are concepts that seem far from everyday life.
There would seem to be an easier way to talk about God in our lives.
I have heard people talk about television preachers like Joel Olsteen.
People seem to like these popular preachers because they supposedly give messages about “everyday life”.
On the other hand, I have been told, that lots of mainline protestant pastors get caught up in theological explanation that don’t seem to have a lot to do with life.
I don’t think that is the difference at all.
Joel Olsteen, and other preachers like him, gives a message about self reliance.
He tells people that they can have it all, if they believe enough, if they are good enough, all their dreams can come true.
I think people like that message.
It is a message based on self.

I can’t give you that message this morning, or any Sunday morning really.
I can’t give you that message because it is not a Biblical message.
I also can’t give you that message because it is not totally the truth.
We all don’t make our own way.
We all can’t will ourselves to be better, or do better.
We cannot accomplish all of our dreams.
Some of who we are is defined by where we are born, what social economic class we are born into.
Some it has to do with who are parents are.
Some of it has to do with luck.
I offer as proof the amount of people who bought a lottery ticket this weekend in hopes of winning the $900 million dollar jackpot.
Why buy a lottery ticket if we can will our way to be anything we want?
If that was true wouldn’t all those who bought a ticket simply will their way to being a millionaire?
One of the ad campaigns for the lottery, it actually says, “Luck Happens.”
People bought tickets in the hopes of getting lucky.
They bought it in hopes of paying off bills, helping their families lives improve, giving some to charities they believe in.
They bought a ticket because life wasn’t all they wanted it to be, all they thought it should be.
The life they have actually worked really hard for isn’t good enough, so they need luck.

What we often hear.
What the world proclaims to us.
What we hear over and over again in subtle ways, and sometimes in overt ways, “You are not good enough.”
“Your life is not good enough.”
The things that you have actually worked really hard for don’t matter enough.
There needs to be more.
You should be in better shape.
You should have more money.
You should have smarter kids.
You should want more than this ordinary life.

I got a letter from Portico, this is the ELCA group that handles pastors retirement and health care, a while back.
It was a letter about my retirement.
And basically the message was, “You haven’t done enough for retirement. You will be broke and old someday.”
The message was I was failing at retirement and I haven’t even got there yet.
And this was from Portico which is supposed to be a ministry of the Church!
You see there are all sorts of proclamations like this in our lives.
They tell us we should be better.
They tell us we are not good enough.

And then the world tells us we don’t have what we want because we have not worked hard enough for it.
And then some religious person tells us that we don’t have because we don’t believe enough.
And we make ourselves crazy, depressed, and anxious because we don’t have the life that we think we need, or even believe we want.
Or we work harder and harder trying to get that life only to find out that is not very fulfilling either.
Some people win the lottery and their life gets worse.

Life is so much more complicated than simply get rich and life will be fine.
Even rich people have problems.
And those can’t be solved by money, fame, or buying more things.
And I can’t tell you that life will get better if you only believe more because it simply isn’t true.

What I offer you instead of a life trying always to be better, to do more, is the everyday wonder and magic of God’s grace.
I offer you the life of a baptized member of God’s family.
What that gets you is a proclamation from the creator of the universe.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Do not fear that you are good enough, have done enough.
Do not fear that you are worthy.
Do not fear that you don’t have enough.
Do not fear that you haven’t saved enough for retirement.
Do not fear that you are a failure.
You are mine.
You are loved.
You are good enough.

I wonder if we go through our days thinking about that fact?
Do we live our lives under that truth?
Because that is what grace is about.
It is about knowing that what we do will never be enough.
We can never do enough to make life better.
But what we cannot do, God has already done.
I really do believe in the core of myself that if we could really live under that grace our lives would be truly better.
Not superficially better, but really better.
We would love more and judge less.
We would give more and horde less.
We would try more and worry less.

Because you see often times we don’t try because we worry about failing.
But failing at something is not the problem.
It is the idea that we would never do it because we might look foolish.
My daughter this week tried out for the spelling bee in her class.
Truth is she is like her father and not very good at spelling.
But I was proud of her, not because she won, but because she was not afraid to fail, and tried anyway.
That is what our Baptisms can do for all of us.
It can help us to know that even in failing we are worthy, and loved.
That is true to life.
It is the real experience that we have.
Not that if we just try real hard, and believe we will succeed.
But that sometimes even when we try and believe we will fail, and that is ok because at the center of our lives, at the center of the universe is a God that has proclaimed us loved, redeemed.
A God who has called us by name, and we know we belong to God.

I hope you all go out this week and fail.
And that in the failure you remember that your worth is not determined by what the world proclaims about you, but about what God has proclaimed about you.