Celebrating Who You Are

Celebrating who you are. As part of this sermon, if you took your hat or cap off after the announcements, I want you to put them back on for the duration of this sermon. You can do that now.

Celebrating who you are. Middle age is when you know all the answers and nobody asks you the questions. One of hardest things in life is when to start middle age.

Celebrating who you are. At recess, out on the playground at school, the teacher said to one of her students, "You look pretty dirty, Suzie." To which the girl replied, "Thank you. I look pretty clean, too."

Celebrating who you are. Harry Truman back in June of 1948 said of himself, "If I felt any better, I couldn't stand it." And Lyndon Johnson, back in July of 1965 said of Harry Truman, "The people of the United States love and voted for Harry Truman not because he gave them hell, but because he gave them hope."

We need to celebrate who we are, and help each other to make sure we each do that.

Many people don't feel there is anything about themselves to celebrate. Even when someone else tells them something they like about them, something they appreciate about them, the person still doesn't feel like there is anything to celebrate.

Often parents don't recognize that they don't make their son or daughter feel like there is anything about themselves to celebrate. Often parents get too caught up in the rules of behavior, get too caught up in disciplining that they don't help the child or youth celebrate who they are. It's especially hard if you have a child who is a bit of a rebel, or a child who is very creative and non-conforming. It's hard to help them celebrate their individuality and appreciate themselves when they aren't like the rest of the kids. Parents know how hard it is growing up and the challenges that children face and they want the child to fit in with the others and not be rejected.

There are lots of adults who have low self esteem. There are many adults who, despite particular gifts, put themselves down because they feel they lack other gifts, or lack the gifts that other folks will really appreciate.

Many folks, for a variety of reasons, don't feel they can celebrate, feel good about themselves without help from something like drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, when a person has had too much to drink, they often can't remember who they were that they wanted to feel good about. And often, when they have had too much to drink, they become something less than a person to celebrate.

Our society is full of artificial helps to make one feel good about themselves. But none of them ever help the person feel good about who they really are-who God created them as. Often, the only way someone can feel good about themselves is to make someone else feel LESS good about who they are. It is often done without thinking.

It happened in our story today. Mary and Martha. Martha is a doer and is good at what she does. But in order for one's doing to have a spiritual basis, one needs to pause and listen and learn from the Lord at times. But Martha can't celebrate that Mary is doing that. She wants Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help and not sit and listen. Martha wants Jesus to confirm that Mary should be doing what she, Martha, is doing. Martha needs that so she can feel good that she has not chosen to sit and listen, but to continue working. But Jesus doesn't fall into her trap. He celebrates what Mary is doing. He says that Mary has chosen the better part. Martha could have done the same. Sometimes we make our tasks seem so important so we can feel good about ourselves, and then we lose our perspective and there isn't anything else that will make us feel like we have worth. We can't see that sitting, listening, absorbing any spiritual thoughts has any value.

Thus, when folks can no longer do what they did to make them have that sense of worth, they can't feel good about themselves and they can't see any other gifts. They never let themselves celebrate the totality of who they really are. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath." That means that God created a day of rest for man, for humans; he didn't create a day of rest and then create man to hold that day as holy. The Sabbath day is holy, not because it is a day set aside to worship God (and the Sabbath day can be any day, just as long as it is set aside for the purpose for which it was intended). No, the Sabbath was created for humans to rest from their labors and contemplate the goodness and blessings of God so that they will be strengthened in their living, and what they do will glorify God.

Martha, as it says in the lesson, was 'distracted by her many tasks.' We can let our doing get in the way of our being. We can get so wrapped up in our doing, that we can't celebrate who we are apart from that.

Some people can't see this. Some people can't see that they don't really feel good about themselves. Some folks just can't see, can't accept that they rely on external things to make them feel good about themselves. It doesn't matter that others tell them, say, they are drinking too much. They can't see it. It doesn't matter that some folks say they are concerned they are taking too many valium to just cope. It doesn't matter if you point out to some folks that they're overeating to the point that it's unhealthy. They can't see that they do it to feel good about themselves.

You don't have to be thin to feel good about yourself; we all have different builds, different body frameworks, different metabolisms. But if we're overeating to feel good about ourselves (and many don't recognize this) then we're using artificial means to celebrate who we are. There are some folks who starve themselves to be thin so they can feel good about themselves. There are names for all these artificial means, and unfortunately when they get to those stages when it becomes like a disease, a disorder, or an addiction, it's very complex and very serious.

Even when it gets to that stage, the essence remains the same and is always part of the treatment for recovery: to feel good about yourself and feel loved as who one is a created child of God-to feel that without any artificial means-and to recognize that at our very core every one of us is constantly seeking God, and if that is unfulfilled in any way, we strive to fill that emptiness in any way we can.

So, we need to do two things as a people gathered in Christ's name-do them when we're here and do them when we leave here until we return.

First, we must celebrate who we are at our core: a loveable, worthwhile human being. Even if no one ever showed us that we were loveable, we would still be loveable. That's the message of Christ, what Jesus says to each of us: "I love you no matter how you look, no matter what you do, what you don't do, what you can and can't do-I love you and was willing to die so that you would believe that. I was willing to die to break the power that the devil had over you to make you think you are not loved, that you are not loveable. I will fill your heart with my love. It is there for the taking. You can use it to feel good about yourself, but you will never feel completely good about yourself unless you share with others the love I have for you. You must help others know they are loved. There's nothing more powerful in this world than love."

When the love Jesus has for you spills over and out to touch another person, a person who doesn't know about that love, and the love that is there in that person is activated-BAM! What a connection! What a burst of positive energy for the world. (and it spills over to others from you because you feel you have worth, feel you have value, feel Jesus' love for you). And when you know you are loved and another person knows they are loved and you connect-DOUBLE BAM!! (I'm talking about Christ love, agape love, not erotic love or the love you have for family or friends.) That love energy spreads like wildfire to the hearts of others beyond the two of you. It's powerful. It's transforming. It's what will turn a life around. It's what will turn the world around.

Truly, I hope for you today that you can celebrate who you are, right now, right here. In part that was why I asked you to wear favorite hats and caps today. So often we celebrate who we are through things we wear, especially hats and caps. And in part it is why I asked you to bring a friend to worship today. Our friends help us celebrate who we are, and we do that for our friends, too, help them celebrate who they are. We help each other see what Christ sees in each of us, no matter what. Friends know each other's shortcomings and love each other in spite of them.

And what a friend we have in Jesus! Jesus makes his love known to us through friends, through family, through the family of God-those of us gathered together in Christ's name. And we are empowered through the Holy Spirit to feel Christ's love within us and to help one another feel that love, to help one another to know we are loved as we are. If we're caught up in some negative way, some addictive means of trying to feel good about ourselves, we need to help each other remember that Christ has broken the bonds the devil has on us through those artificial means, and Christ's power and the power of the Holy Spirit can come to us, to you, be made real for you, through support groups and helpful tools and the love of friends and family.

I know God loves me. I don't say that easily. I did not have an easy childhood or youth. I have had to struggle to know and understand and believe in that love that Jesus has for me. I have often had to struggle to overcome the grip I believed the devil had on me. (He doesn't have a grip on me-it's the way he tricks me to believe that.) I am never free of the devil trying to get a grip on me, and he can trick me any time I open the door to not seeing who I am, a child of God, loved by God-any time I take my focus off my friend, Jesus. Anytime I let myself feel I am less than what God created me to be, I can fall into the negative belief that I'm in grip of the devil.

We don't talk about the reality of the devil much in the Lutheran Church, but Luther knew he was real. The words of one of Luther's greatest hymns, "A Mighty Fortress" tells us just how real he knew the devil to be, and yet he knows how the victory is won-through believing in the love that Jesus has for each one of us as individuals.

God loves you, and, so do I. In closing let's turn to the LBW, the green book of worship, to hymn number 439, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," and sing, without the organ, verses 1 and 2. We need to hear each other singing this, and we need to believe it and help each other believe it.

"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear-all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!....Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged-take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness-take it to the Lord in prayer."

Turn to Jesus, the one who loves you, and believe in yourself, the person God created you to be. God created you to shower love upon you and wants you to celebrate who you are. God didn't create no junk.


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