Hello! It is so wonderful to be back after a week away. I have to say, I’m kind of digging this whole more-official-podcast thing that I’ve got going on. I am hoping that my dad might have some time now that his musical has closed (hi, Dad!) to create some theme music for me. Right now I record Jordan or the choir if something sounds like it could work (although I love listening to them sing/play so I’m okay with that, too!).
Here is this morning’s sermon. We are halfway through our sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul. Today’s theme is redefined. Enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
March 26, 2017
1 Samuel 16:1-15
Redefined (Sermon Series: Boot Camp For The Soul)
When I was in college, I dyed my hair brown.
This change elicited a whole slew of responses, which ranged everywhere from, “Oh my gosh, this highlights your face and matches your eyebrows and it is absolutely perfect!” to my boss at the time, who said, “Well, this is about the dumbest thing you could have possibly done.”
I did not really have a good reason for doing this; I just sort of needed a change. I felt like I needed to speak to whatever quarter-life crisis I was going through at the time. I think, in a way, I was trying to redefine a piece of who I was (albeit a cosmetic one).
This morning we are on week four of our Lenten sermon series, Boot Camp for the Soul and this morning the theme is, redefined.
We just heard two scripture readings, the story of the anointing of King David in 1 Samuel and the story of the blind man who gained his sight in the gospel of John.
These stories are both captivating narratives about men whose lives were redefined in powerful and God-sized ways. These stories bear witness to the great possibilities God can achieve in our lives if we have faith and allow ourselves to be who God is calling us to be. These stories allow us to believe transformation is possible in our lives; they help us grab ahold of the hope that we can shed pieces of who and what defines us now and boldly claim a new identity.
Take David, for example. Samuel had traveled to Bethlehem to anoint a new king; God told Samuel to invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice where one of them would be anointed. But David, himself, was not even part of this sacrifice at first. He was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and had been given the task of keeping the sheep, so that was what he was doing. It was not until Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” that Jesse even mentioned David; and even then, Samuel was the one who had to say, “Send and bring him.” And in the moment that followed, David was redefined.
The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.
Who would have ever thought the youngest of Jesse’s sons – that small, rosy-cheeked shepherd boy – would have been the one anointed king?
God’s imagination is quite something sometimes, is it not?
God said to Samuel, “for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God looked into David’s heart and did not see a meek and mild boy; he saw a king.
In the same way, Jesus’ disciples looked at the blind man and saw a sinner. “Rabbi,” they said to Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples only saw this man’s outer appearance; they only saw a sinner.
But Jesus saw that something greater was at work within this man; Jesus saw that, “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Jesus spat on the ground, made mud that he wiped onto the blind man’s eyes and told man to wash it off in the pool of Siloam.
And in that moment, a change happened. The blind man was refined. The man was no longer blind; he was transformed and given a new definition in life. He shed the identity of a sinner and humbly asked Jesus to help him believe in the Son of Man.
Again, I say: God’s imagination is quite something, is it not?
A small and inexperienced shepherd boy was anointed king. A man who was blind his entire life could suddenly see clearly. Transformation is not only possible with God; it is spectacularly probable. It happened extraordinarily in the lives of these two men.
And it can happen in our lives, as well.
In both of these scriptures, there is a poignant emphasis on what we see on the outside versus what God can see on the inside. God did not see a young boy or a blind man, God saw a king and a man who could not only see, but also reveal God’s works within him. God saw the potential, power and presence of these two men long before anybody else did.
This makes me wonder: What does God sees in us, as well?
So often, we look in the mirror and see who we are, who we have been up until this point in our lives and who other people want us to be. But how often do we look into our own hearts, as God looked into David’s, and see the great potential of who God is calling us to be? How often do we, like the blind man, see the way God’s works can be revealed in us?
We have to open our eyes to see this potential. We have to believe in God’s transformative power. We have to believe that we, too, can be redefined.
Sometimes I get nervous when I start preaching about personal change, because I would never want someone to think they are not good enough or worthy of God’s love just the way they are. You are enough; your faith is enough.
In fact, I think that is what these stories are trying to teach us.
The potential to be redefined by God – to be changed, to be transformed – is within all of us. We are already not only who God created us to be, but also who God is calling us to be. Our faith is full of stories of individual men and women who sought wholeness and were redefined by God’s love and grace.
The truth is, we live in a broken world. As Christians, we believe Jesus came to this earth to intercede on behalf of our own brokenness. Part of our journey to the cross during the Lenten season is about reflecting on the enormity of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection means to us today. Part of Lent means looking at our own brokenness and discerning how God’s works can be revealed in our earthly lives. It is okay to seek change – to crave God’s redefining presence in our lives – because that is all part of this journey we are one.
We are all a collaborative work in progress. The church is in the business of changing lives; one of the reasons we come to church is because as human beings, we want our lives to be changed. And I am not talking about cosmetic changes, like a new hairstyle (although, those can be quite liberating). I am talking about real, palpable, God-sized changes. I am talking about changes that strengthen our faith and feed our spirit. I am talking about changes that teach us about who we are and draw out our best pieces so we can be confident and faithful ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am talking about changes that make us better husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, bosses and coworkers, neighbors and friends. I am talking about changes that enable us to be the very best versions of ourselves.
We are halfway through the Lenten season. There are three more weeks until Easter; three more weeks until we are reminded that in death there is resurrection, in darkness there is light, in hatred there is love and in sorrow there is hope. In three weeks, we will stand in awe of the bold and redeeming truth that God gives us second chances and third chances and fourth chances (and 15th chances, if we need them!).
So now is the time. We may not be redefined in the grandiose ways King David and the blind man were, but we have to believe in that possibility. We have to believe that we can achieve our goals, strengthen our faith, better ourselves and maybe even try something new along the way.
Friends, in our brokenness, it is by the grace of God that we are made whole again. Seeking change in our lives – trying to redefine pieces of who we are – does not make who we are bad or not enough; in fact, I think it just brings more power to the Christian story. As we work on who we are and redefine ourselves, I believe grace gets more and more powerful.
So take this time to think about who you are. Look in the mirror and think not only about who you see, but also who God sees. And let yourself be redefined by God.
Thanks be to God!