by Rev. Doug Gray
To start us out, I would like you to take a few moments to answer two questions. If you would like to write the answers down, there is some blank space in your bulletins for you to do so.
1. Name two of the most important things that have made you who you are.
2. What have they contributed to who you are?
Go ahead. If you don’t want to write, or if (like me) sometimes you can’t read your own handwriting, just think of the answers in your head. Alright?
(pause so folks can reflect)
In our lives, we have only a few basic ways of becoming, and they all have to do with taking things in. When we eat and drink, we take food and liquid in and it becomes part of who we are. How many of you listed any meal you ate or anything you drank as one of your two most important things that made you who you are? Yes, this is one way we become who we are, but not the most significant. When we breathe, we take in the air around us, and the oxygen and other things affect us. How many of you listed a smell or something you smoked as one of your two most important things that make you who you are? Another way we become who we are, but again, not the most significant. Do you see where this pattern is going? What other ways do we take things in?
Hear, see, feel, experience, act, choose (the things that combine all these are strongest for us)
God is interested in who you are becoming. In fact, God made you to become…but become what? We can become lots of things in life—some require more work than others. For a while I was becoming a slob…it’s a remarkably easy goal in life. For a while I was becoming a volleyball player…that took a lot more practice, but after a few years, I started to get pretty good and enjoyed it tremendously. When I was a teenager, I realized that the only way my life made sense was if I was living it for God. Gradually, I came to realize that if I wanted to live my life for God, I needed to learn how to want what God wanted for me. In his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren writes, “God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn’t want to destroy it. Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.”
When we think about the things that have had the biggest impact on who we are, most of us list things that are outside of us—parents, friends, bosses, and maybe events. For Paul, the biggest impact comes from the inside, when we “recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete.” With the Spirit’s help, we begin to choose to do what helps us become. The things people hate about religion—that probably we all hate about religion—are truly empty, because what God wants is not religion, but relationship. In that relationship, we become…kinder, more thoughtful, more courageous, gentler, truer, more hopeful, more beautiful, like Jesus. Most of all what God wants is that we would become radiant, that the light of Jesus would shine in all we do. Let us not veil the wonder and beauty, the love and joy of being servants of the One King, of becoming the image of His Son, but let that so shine in us that others may see our good works and be drawn to the One whom we serve. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Amen.