Pentecost 13 Traditional sermon
The first time I remember my parents giving me the talk was when I was about four years old. Not ‘THE TALK,’ but a memorable one just the same…
We were sitting around the dining room table all having dinner and talking about our day and I wanted to be able to join in, so I remember saying, “Today I was at school (by the way this was preschool) and guess what I saw. I saw a girl with orange red hair. OH MY GOSH she had orange hair!”
But I didn’t say gosh. The room got colder and I think it was my mom who said “Sarah, we as a family, do not use the Lord’s name in vain. I think my dad who had followed this up with, “So what if she has orange hair. Did you say hello to her? Did you talk to her? Did you be a friend?”
There’s another talk I remember. I was in the 6th grade and I was 12 years old. I don’t know how it is for 12 year olds today, but when I was a 12 year old, life was kind of stinky. It was a really hard environment to navigate as a 12 year old. Teachers could sometimes pick on you and make fun of you.Your body begins to do wonky things. And then there’s the whole entire friend thing. Maybe one day you’re the best of best friends you trade jokes and you trade cookies, you trade stories, you trade your deepest secrets. And then maybe the next day your friend becomes the best friend of another and your dreams, your stories your secrets are spilled all over for everyone to see. And I remember sitting at home crying, just wanting desperately to be accepted and be part of a group and “one of the team” and just be normal…and my mom gave me the talk. She said, “Sarah…one day your friends may ask you to go places or do things that you know are wrong. If they jump of the Brooklyn bridge will you do it too? And you need to ask yourself ‘is this who you are going to be?’
There’s another talk I remember…it was a talk with myself. I was 18 years old and I was at a Bible camp and we all gathered together for a week of fun, and hanging out with boys, and singing and Bible study, and hanging out with cute boys, and going to the beach…and hanging out with boys. Okay, I went to the Bible camp to be around cute boys, but while there my faith was refined in that place and time. I remember singing a song that week that haunted me:
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will.
But I remember at that time trying to understand what it meant to be holy, what it meant to be refined by God and God’s work with the Holy Spirit. As an 18 year old that translated into questions like: do I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or only listen to people like Michael W. Smith? Do I go to a state college or do I go to a Christian college? Do I only have friends who go to church with me or can my friends who don’t or of different faiths or have no faith? What does it mean to be holy?
What does this refiner’s fire mean for me? Do I jump into the deep end of the pool and be immersed in the promise of baptism and Jesus’ desire for my life…that is to make me holy so that when the question is asked “Is this who you are going to be?” I know the answer.
Something must have stuck with so many of the talks that I received, because I had the talk with my daughter. Last week. We were in the library and she was running around the bookcases and she ran into a woman of Indian descent and reacted in a way that was different than she would have to someone that looks like her mommy. And I kneeled down and smiled and said, “honey. She’s just like you and me. She just needs a smile, because we all need a smile.”
And in that moment I understood why my parents gave me all those talks and backed it up with actions of how they were going to be as followers of Christ.
These moments in our lives…and we all have them are refining moments. The Holy Spirit burning away…burning away the extra stuff that doesn’t matter or asking us truly what is at stake. Asking us “how are you going to be?”
How does the fact that God will go to the ends of the earth repeating this message of faith, hope and love over and over again effect how you are going to be?
How does the reality that God became human and died for us and then entered into our hearts effect how you are going to be?
How does the presence of the Spirit’s kindled fire burning from within effect who you are going to be?
We believe not simply so that we can have knowledge of the power of God and life saving work of Jesus, but we believe and have been given this faith so that the fire that drives us to live like Jesus.
Drives us to ask ourselves and the one’s in our care “How are you going to be…” How do we walk in the world, but don’t bend from its pressures. How do we navigate around the pit of gossip, the temptation of slander, the urge toward violence. How does the Spirit’s fire drive you? How are you going to live like Jesus?
Perhaps you hear stories of how we live like Jesus:
I saw it on the tv watching the Olympics. Simone Manuel the first African American to win a gold medal in swimming and as she got out of the pool a reporter asked her what her thoughts were in the first words out of her mouth were all glory to God. She knows how she’s going to be.
Or perhaps you going to be like the grandfather who is intentionally gathering his grandchildren in cherished moments and sharing what it means to be a wise and good person in the world today. To be like Jesus and listen and guide and rejoice as his grandchildren learn to live in the world following Jesus.
Are you going to be like one of our youth at St. Peter’s whose principal gave him an award…not based on scholastics or sports, but based on compassion because he took it upon himself to watch and befriend and guide and guard a boy who has special needs.
How do you live like Jesus? Because friends, Jesus already lives in you and his fire burns–bringing you to grace and salvation and light you up in the world in which you live. Amen