"The Power Of Our Identity"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - November 7, 2004
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Ephesians 1:15-23
No doubt across our land this morning some clergy will be telling their congregations how the Holy Spirit prevailed in our election and how people united for Christ will be bringing our country back to the values of our founding fathers and mothers. As with every enormously expensive election, both in financial and emotional currency, the analysis of what happened on November 2 will continue for a long time.
some of us actually believe that the power of the Church lies in forming
a block of voters that has the ability to sway a national election? Is
this who we have been called to be? Do we honestly think that putting
the right people in office and formulating the right
strategies for dealing with national issues is going to change the minds
and hearts of Americans? During their campaigning each
Presidential candidate promised how he was going to fix our
lives. Can anyone ever do that?
example, if Social Security could be overhauled so that every American
upon retirement could be assured of receiving annually $40,000, would
that sum of money help us to manage our spending patterns more wisely?
Would bringing prayer back into our public schools and putting the Ten
Commandments in every classroom inspire students to become
self-starters? Would such an activity help students to develop a hunger
for learning causing them to devour every book that could lead them
beyond their current academic horizons?
do not mean to trivialize or minimize the importance of our elected form
of government. Our society needs strong laws as well as a balance of
powers to keep the environment of our society safe and productive for
its citizens. In fact, even with all its flaws, what we have is second
to none in the world.
Historically, however, each of us knows that no government or elected
official can ever determine the course of our spiritual journey. How we
unlock and develop our potential is our decision.
We are the ones
who create the attitudes, values and goals that enable us to express our
discipleship motivated by a consciousness, the source of which no one
we celebrate All Saints Day today, think about those in your past who
inspired the development of your character, values, spiritual skills and
who helped you learn your identity by teaching you how to use the
talents with which you were born. Maybe it was Mom or Dad, a Scout
leader, a youth counselor, a Drill Instructor, or a teacher who noticed
your promise and worked with you. Those who inspired growth in a
world that our eyes cannot see are the saints in our lives.
Apostle Paul understood that Jesus’ Kingdom was not of this world.
There are times when we forget this. In his letter to the Ephesians,
Paul discussed the enormity of our power as individuals. He wrote, “I
ask that your minds may be opened to see God’s light, so that you will
know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the
wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his
power at work in us who believe. This power working in
us is the same as the mighty strength, which God used when he raised
Jesus from death.”
This power has nothing to do with who is in office or what promises
politicians made to us or who is putting more money into our pockets
through tax cuts. This power has to do with how each of us intends
to carry our energy in spite of our analysis of what is happening around
us. Living this way communicates that our faith is what gives us
guidance. This power is what allows us to become a useful tool for God’s
Saints are those people who do not judge us. Their lives point to a road less traveled. These are the people who patiently listen to us when we are complaining or resentful about all the things that we believe are making us unhappy. These are the people who ask us insightful questions that find their mark with surgical precision. These are the people who tell us what we do not want to hear or who urge us to examine the quality of our energy when it radiates from a “please love me” neediness. These are the people who do not mind getting involved in our personal business. Love sometimes requires that they do. These are our saints, teachers, coaches and guides.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he was reminding them who Jesus called
them to be. Jesus chose to call his listeners to wear their sainthood
with boldness even though the Romans were in power. Some of us need
to be reminded that our unique identity is what this world needs right
now. This self-understanding has little to do with the political party
affiliation of the one occupying the White House or which party has
dominance in the halls of Congress.
Our nation has had many Presidents. Americans have witnessed the coming and going of many members in both Houses of the Congress. What our world needs are more people willing to radiate their sainthood. The quality of our world will always depend on the consciousness of its citizens. Peacefulness and loving our neighbor will come by choice not by legislation. Are we ready to step up and make visible who we are? Others before us sowed their seeds and we have reaped the harvest. Now it is our time to sow.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Eternal God, we
thank you for the gift of memory. You have given us the capacity to
retain what others have learned so that we can build on their
understanding. As we grow, our decisions are more informed, practical
and kind. Enable us to remember that every healthy branch is connected
to your vine. Each life remains steadfast and faithful because of the
strength of its foundation. We thank you that we are stewards of our
traditions of faith that produce healing results. Inspire us to model
and teach what is the source of our faith. May we learn from experience
that the inward journey Jesus taught will give us more skills than we
could possibly imagine. As we give ourselves away, may others surrender
their delay and join us. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
How pleasing it is, O God, to set aside the
stress and tension that surrounded many of our tasks of last week.
During these moments enable us to let go of them and experience peace.
As we worship, help us imagine someone with a soaked sponge erasing the
blackboards we hold in suspension within our minds. These are the ones
that house all the "to do" lists, the calls we need to return and the
personalities who made challenging requests of us. Lead us to feel
appreciation for the experience of sanctuary within these walls.
How wonderful it is to be reminded that laughter is good medicine, that shaking hands while looking people in the eyes reminds all of us that we are family here. We thank you for creating us with so many ways to express, "I love you."
Thank you for helping us develop intentional
amnesia where we no longer remember the list of wrongs we once held
about others. Thank you for teaching us how to accept people just as
they are. And thank you for teaching us that all such extensions of
spirit come naturally when our identities are totally secure and firmly
rooted in your love for us. Teach us that you have created us to be
saints who have the potential to lead others to discover a Kingdom they
cannot see with their physical eyes.
May these moments together with you nourish
us with memories that heal, empower, and enhance all of us to be more
peaceful and loving men and women. We pray these thoughts through the
spirit of Jesus who taught us to say when we pray . ..