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April 7, 2019

“Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You”

Romans 12:2-12

 

How many of you remember the movie version of the King and I from 1956 with Debra Kerr and Yul Brenner? I love that movie and musical. One of my favorite Rogers and Hammerstein songs was “Getting to know YOU, Getting to know all about you.” In the show, Anna, a British schoolteacher who has been hired as a governess, sings the song as she strikes up a warm and affectionate relationship with the children and the wives of the King of Siam. As she teaches the children and some of the king’s wives, she gets to know them better.

 

I used the title to the song for today’s sermon, however, not so that we can get to know others better. Today’s sermon will provide a bit of time for introspection-Getting to know YOU, getting to know all about yourself. Today, we’ll spend a bit of time considering what makes you tick, what things about you are in line with Christ’s and Paul’s teachings, and what things still need work. We will be going down this road because of Paul’s admonition at the beginning of today’s passage. Paul writes to the church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In order to know what not to be conformed TO, we need to know ourselves first.

 

The ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus used the maxim "know thyself" in his play Prometheus Bound. This apparently was also used by the great philosopher, Socrates. So we begin by finding out what we know about ourselves, or as it says In verse 3, “a sober self-assessment”; then looking at the world around us- what not to be conformed to so that we can then focus upon and be transformed through God’s power and teachings.

What do you know about YOU? A number of years ago, I was working with a spiritual director who spent some time with me on the phrase, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”(Matthew 19:19) One of the things she encouraged me to do was to spend some time on the second part of that phrase- “as you love yourself.” She asked me to spend some time each day, looking in the mirror at myself- looking into my own eyes for at least a minute and asking me to write down what I felt and saw about myself.

 

It is an interesting thing to stare into your own eyes and ponder your own soul. I considered my strong points and weak points, and all of those other things in between. I don’t know if I came away loving myself more, but I was aware of those places that were in line with Christ’s teachings, and aware of those places in myself that were in need of some work. I encourage you to try this exercise tonight after brushing your teeth and standing there in front of the bathroom mirror, remembering that section of scripture, …” as you love yourself.” In just a bit, we’ll all have an opportunity to take a self-assessment, to have some time for sober self-judgment. .But for the moment, I want to spend some time with this phrase, “Do not be conformed to this world…”

 

What did this mean for Paul? In this case, the word, “world” = sin. We humans are enslaved by it, tempted by it, conformed to it. Paul saw a real struggle between sin and God in the world, even with his own personal life. He wrote in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin living within me.” Paul saw the sin in the world around him, and at times found himself overwhelmed by that sin, and then doing the things he knew were in opposition to his faith. What are some of the sins in the world we Christians face today, those sins that our society seems to be living by these days?

 

I see the sin of FEAR today, particularly in our own nation. Fear is what is driving so many of the political issues these days. We fear the immigrant coming across our borders. We fear those who are different from us, who speak in a different language, who have different colored skin than us. We fear others, so we stockpile weapons. According to Quartz.com, there are now enough firearms in America for every person, some 316 million Americans in the nation to own one. This is despite the fact that only 3% of the nation’s, populace own ½ of the nation’s estimated 316 million firearms. God says in Isaiah 43:1 “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear” The sin of fear is rampant in the world and specifically in this nation today.

 

That fear is connected to another sin - the sin of racism, which has reared its ugly head in the United States over the last 2 and ½ years. People of color and people from the LGTBQ community have been shouted at and attacked more often, especially since the presidential election in 2016. Synagogues, Mosques have been attacked and sprayed with racist graffiti. White supremacists and Nazis feel they have a voice and are making their views known on the internet and in the streets.

 

Yet God created us as a diverse people and wants us to unite. That's why God gave us different skills and strengths so that we would recognize our need for one another and appreciate our individuality. God’s love for variety is not just visible in us but in all aspects of creation. Look at the many species in any ecosystem all living in synchrony, or the changing seasons, each allowing for growth and harvest.

 

A hatred for diversity doesn't reflect a love for the one who created it. We should celebrate the differences that we have because of their beauty, usefulness and because they are the work of our Creator. Paul was a believer in this. Consider Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." And further on in this very passage, Paul writes, “For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ.” (Romans 12:4-5) Diversity in creation is a reflection of the diversity of the Creator.

 

Then there is the sin of the worship of power and money. Those who have finances are often the ones whom we elevate to godlike status. Powerful families such as The trumps, the Buffets, the Kochs, and the Gates of the world are the ones we lift up. Yet Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)When we covet, worship or desire money and power over God, we are confirming to the sin of the world around us.

 

There is the sin of poverty. We have more than enough resources in this world to feed all people on the planet, and to house the unhoused. We live in an imperfect world with a huge imbalance of wealth and power. God is a God of justice and wants people to make a difference in the world, standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and sharing what we have with those who have nothing.

 

Scripture says much about this imbalance. For example, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

 

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

 

“Then Jesus said to his host . . . When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. “ (Luke 14:14)

 

Lastly, but by all means, not exhaustively, there is the sin of worshipping war. Our nation especially values the power of war. We have been at war continuously since 2001. Will it ever end? We spend more by far than any other nation on weaponry and defense. The latest military budget request from the White House asks for 760 Billion dollars in weapon and defense spending for 2020, an increase from $716 Billion asked for in 2019. We seem to believe that the more we spend on weapons, the safer we will be. The more we promote war, the stronger we will be as a nation. In Isaiah 2:4, God says, I will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. A nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Psalm 34:14 says, “Seek peace and pursue it.” Paul in Romans 12:18 writes, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We were meant to live at peace with one another, not worship, promote and live by war.

 

So, we have an idea of the world and not what to conform ourselves to. You may see other sins in the world which differ from my list, and that is fine, as long as you know what not to conform to. Now, it is time to get back to you, and getting to know you.

 

So, what do you know about YOU? Do you “Know Thyself?” DO you know Thy faith? As a person of faith, what are some of the teachings of Christ you do well, and what are some of the ones with which you struggle? We are going to move into a time of silence to allow you for a time of “Sober self-assessment.” I am going to read from Paul’s list of the qualities of a faithful, renewed mind, one by one, and allow you to ponder, to assess how well they fit yourself. Consider each one, and define it as you understand it. Then ask yourself if it fits you, or if it needs some renewal. Few deep breaths to relax…

 

 

One who has been transformed by the renewing of their mind through the Spirit…

Has genuine love for others

Hates what is evil

Holds fast to what is good

Loves others as sisters and brothers

Shows honor

Doesn’t flag in zeal- in enthusiasm for faith and for God

Is aglow with the Spirit of God

Serves God

Rejoices in hope

Is patient in tribulation

Is constant in prayer.

 

So, let us go from this place, not being conformed to the things of this world, but having our minds renewed by the Spirit of God, holding onto hope and growing in our faith. We are not what we once were; We are not yet what we shall become; Thanks be to God! Amen.

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