"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

     Now that we are in the aftermath of our national elections, it has been intriguing to notice the power that is being attributed to Christianity by some commentators for the Republican victory.  Paul Harvey, for example, mentioned last week that the Democrats have taken notice that the Bible belt is as wide as the nation.  Others have said that the controversial issues on ballots in many of the swing states is what brought out the Evangelical vote in such vast numbers.             

     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.            

     Do 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? 

     For 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?  

     I 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 can see. 

     As 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.    

     The 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 creativity. 

     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.  


    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. 


    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 ...