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    Sep 02, 2018

    15th Sunday after pentecost/ proper 17

    Preacher: The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin

    Series: Year B: 2017-2018

    Category: Special Services

    Detail:

    The 15th Sunday after Pentecost

    9/2/18

    Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Greensboro

    The Rev’d  Nathan M. Finnin

     

    “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.”

    These words this morning are from our first reading,

    the Epistle of James.

     

    And they might just be the most accurate description of growth and healing and wellness

    that I have ever heard.

    “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.”

     

    You see, these words remind us of something that we so easily forget.

    Something that we may have forgotten so long ago,

    that we don’t even remember ever knowing it.

     

    Something that most of us spend our lives struggling to recapture,

    but aren’t even aware we’ve lost.

     

    These words remind us that we are enough.

    You see, somewhere along the way,

    most of us have been given the information that we aren’t enough.

     

    This happens in all kinds of ways:

    sometimes people outright say it. “You’re not enough.”

    a side note: don’t be with those people…they aren’t good people.

    Sometimes a group of people, or an institution tell us we aren’t enough:

    • we don’t get a bid to the club we want to join
    • we don’t get invited to the classmate’s birthday party
    • we don’t get the job, or the promotion, or the raise we want
    • we don’t get accepted to the school we’ve always dreamed of
    • We don’t get the attention or acceptance we long for from family

     

    Sometimes it’s society that tells us we’re not enough.

    Just watch commercials, or look at advertisements online or in magazines.

    You have to drive the right car to be interesting,

    you have to put on the right clothes to be attractive,

    you have to experience the right vacation or getaway to be happy…

     

    Right? Are you hearing me?

    We are exposed to so many messages which, at their base,

    are made up of the story “you’re not enough”,

    that we don’t even realize it’s happening.

    THAT’S how normal it has become.

     

    What James’ is doing in this morning’s Epistle, I believe,

    is reminding us that that simply isn’t true.

    We are enough.

    And the reason we are enough, is that we have implanted in us,

    the word that has the power to save our souls.

    That word is who we are.

    That word is what we are.

     

     

     

    The beginning of John’s Gospel tells us that :

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

     

    Folks, that’s the word that is implanted in us.

    God.

    God is implanted in us.

    And if we believe that God is implanted in us,

    then it stands to follow that our worthiness, our value,

    does not come from the external world.

    It comes from within.

    It comes from God.

     

    I’m currently reading a book by Dr. Kelly Flanagan, called Loveable.

    The book began as a result of his coffee not being hot enough.

    He started googling, “how to keep coffee hot,”

    but the search engine autofilled his search to “how to keep him interested.”

     

    As you can imagine, the results were startling.

    He writes about the articles that appeared in the search,

    which aren’t exactly appropriate to discuss from the pulpit,

    and talks about how surprised he was that most of them were written BY women.

     

    In response to what he read, he began writing his 3 year old daughter a letter.

     

    He writes,

    “I imagined Caitlin…absorbing all the messages suggesting her worthiness is dependent on her prettiness and subsurvience I wanted to challenge [those voices] with the voice of a father, telling her that beauty isn’t something she starts putting on her face in adolescence; it’s something that was put into her soul from the very beginning. I wanted her to know worthiness isn’t something you buy in a store; it’s something you discover in yourself.”[1]

     

    He goes on to write:

     

    “it began to dawn on me: it’s not just little girls who need to be reminded of their inner beauty – ALL of us need to be reminded or our worthiness and the power we have to live beautiful lives….The little one inside of you is your truest self – the you who existed before things got confusing, before guys started telling you that you had to bring them a sandwich to be interesting, before an industry started telling you that you had to buy a product to be beautiful, before you had to be tough to be enough, before you had to be cool to survive in school. The little one inside of you is the you who is most aware of your worthiness. But it is also your most wounded you, because that little boy or girl was on the front lines when the world started telling you that you weren’t enough.”[2]

     

    Worthiness isn’t something you get from the outside.

    It’s the implanted word that has the power to save your soul.

    And the invitation we have, through Christ,

    is to rest into the soul we’ve forgotten-

    this good and beautiful thing we were

    before life started convincing us we were something else.

     

     

     

    If you don’t believe me,

    go talk to my 3 year old son Beckett after this service.

    He will tell you about his new shoes,

    ask you about your favorite Scooby Doo episodes,

    ask you how you got here,

    and find out what you know about astronauts.

     

    He’s not worried about proving his worthiness.

    He’s not sizing you up.

    He’s not interested in impressing you.

    He assumes that he is good and worthy,

    AND….he assumes that everyone else is too.

     

    In fact, and I love this,

    We often ask our son if he wants or needs things…

    more food, help doing something, etc..

    and when he doesn’t need our help he says “no thanks, I’m enough.”

    Now, I’m not sure he knows what he’s saying when he says this,

    but I love the truth in it.

    He’s enough….and he knows it.

    And he’s right.

    He’s enough.

    And We’re enough. 

    All of us.

     

    The problem is, we’re really good at forgetting.

    We are good at forgetting who we are,

    and we are good at forgetting whose we are.

    In the words of James

    “we are like those who look at ourselves in a mirror.

    For we look at ourselves and,

    on going away, immediately forget what we were like.”

     

    Now, as one author notes

     

    “Ordinarily, standing in front of a mirror might mean that we see ourselves as thin or overweight, blemished, disheveled, wrinkled, or scarred. But that is not what James is getting at. Instead, we are to think about ourselves in light of what has just been said. Do you see you who are? You are someone who has been blessed by God's gifts, someone who has been brought to new life through God's word--a person who is a first fruit, set aside as someone who belongs to God.” – Craig Koester[3]

     

    I love that.

    And the reason I love that,

    is I think it perfectly describes the human condition.

    There are brief “mirror moments” when we know who we are,

    and we know whose we are.

    But once we walk away, we immediately forget what we are like.

     

    And so we need mirrors!

    The problem with mirrors,

    is that they’re not always consistent.

    Do any of you have “good” mirrors and “bad” mirrors?

    I can’t be the only one.

    You know, mirrors that you look better in, or worse in?

    Or have you ever been in a dressing room with multiple mirrors?

    And you see yourself from angles you aren’t used to?

    Yikes, right?

     

    And so not only do we need mirrors,

    we need MULTIPLE mirrors.

    Because if we only rely on the mirrors we like,

    we won’t see the whole picture.

     

    We won’t see the true self.

    And the true self is the self that was made in the image of God.

    The true self is the self that is enough.

     

    So my question this morning is, on the surface, a simple one:

    What are your mirror moments?

    What are the moments where you are most clearly aware of who you are?

    What are the moments where you are most clearly aware of your innate worth?

     

    For some, it’s coffee with a trusted friend.

    For others, it’s 12 step meetings or support groups.

    For others still, it’s looking into the eyes of a lover, or partner, or child, or parent.

    Perhaps it’s in times of stillness…in prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

    Maybe it’s when you’re lost in the wonder of art, or music,

    or when you’re swept up in divine liturgy?

    when you receive communion..?

     

    When are you reminded that you have the divine word implanted in you?

    My hope is that you will find some of those mirror moments here.

    In worship,

    in Servant Leadership,

    in foyer or covenant groups,

    in Christian Education,

    in fellowship around meals.

     

    And I hope you will be part of mirror moments for others.

    Reminding them of what makes them sacred,

    affirming them when they show vulnerability and trust,

    lifting up the unique ways in which they are equipped to build the kingdom of God.

     


    Whatever your mirror moments are, I commend you to seek them out more!

    Because there is risk in forgetting who you are.

    And if you do, the false self,

    what Richard Rohr calls the “small self.your appearance,

    your education, your job, your money, your success.

    Those things that sometimes get you through an ordinary day,

    will begin to push out your true self.

     

    It will begin to smother the implanted word embedded deep inside you.

    It will cause you to look into the wrong mirrors.

     

     

     

    The risk in forgetting who you are isn’t that God loves you any less.

    The risk in forgetting who you are isn’t even that others love you any less.

    The risk in forgetting who you are isn’t that you become less worthy.

     

    The risk in forgetting who you are,

    is that you become tempted to live a life that isn’t yours.

    Amen

     

    [1] Lovelable, Kelly Flanagan, p. 10

    [2] Ibid, p, 11

    [3] www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=382