Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Welcome! I want to begin today by saying thank you all for such a warm welcome this past week as Jackie and I have arrived. I am sure just as I am anxious to get to know each of you, you may be a little bit anxious about who is this young pastor that has been appointed to the Red Valley Church. I chose our Gospel Lesson today because it deals a lot with identity. Who is this Jesus fellow, what is the community saying about him, what does his followers say about him, and what does he say about himself and those following him. Today I would like to introduce you to the many different facets of who I am and how I understand my calling to serve our Lord. I am going to use today many different objects to represent these different aspects.
As this is the fourth of July weekend, let me simply begin with the American flag by saying that yes, I am an American. I was born in Lafayette, Indiana on September 3rd, 1986, and have grown up most of my life here in VA moving often with my father being also a United Methodist Pastor.
- Fire Department
- Teapot – Jackie (Met in Kindergarten, Wife in ministry with me)
- Talk a little bit about who Jackie is
- Farmers daughter
- Crafty (in a good sense)
- Spencer’s Book – Spencer/Beijing
- Diplomas – Schooling
- Backpacking – AT
- Climbing – Seneca
- Hunting – Provide for family in deer meat
- Caving – Recreational
- Camp Overlook – Confirmation of Calling to Ministry
- Missions – (heart is) China, ASP, UMVIM
- Israel – 2009 Trip informs my ministry
- Bible/Book of Discipline – Scriptures are the Inspired Word of God and are our sole source of knowledge of God, the Book of Discipline is our plan of how we understand doing church. Often people have used these two books as weapons, but I hope that we, here at Red Valley can learn to use these two books as tools to till, plant, and grow the church.
Now we get to the most important part of who I am, the cross. When we really get down to who I am, I am as the apostle Paul has said to the Romans and to the church in Corinth, I am a slave to Christ and to His Cross. The decisions that I make each and every day, I try my best to make them based not on any of these other things, but from the stance of the cross. This truly does mean that at times it means to forsake my interests, you can guarantee that in order to follow Christ it has affected my family, and yes on this fourth of July it means that at times I commit treason when I say, “Jesus is Lord.” But for me there is no other thing that I can stand on, but being a slave to the cross.
For me though to tell you that I am a slave to the cross means nothing unless I show you what I mean by that. (Raise arms to the cross to be hung). This is what it means for me to be a slave to the cross. It means to be vulnerable. Try something with me. I want everyone to stand as you are able and face the person beside you. Place your arms out like being hung on the cross. (wait)…Anyone at this moment who does not feel vulnerable to the person beside you, sit down. Look around brothers and sisters, when we take up the cross we must be vulnerable. (Please be seated)This vulnerability is a feeling we do not like, but one that we a Christians must work with. We must be vulnerable, Vulnerable with God. Letting God know everything there is about who I am, allowing God into my most inner parts of my life, allowing God to penetrate me even at times when I do not want him too.
To be a slave to the cross, it means to be vulnerable to each other. If we are going to minister together, we must be vulnerable with one another. Allowing our guards down and not trying to beat one another up, but lifting each up. It means to be able to forgive one another as Christ forgave each and every one of us. Is there anything that God does not forgive other than blasphemy of the Spirit, No, then neither should we. I hope that you will see me being vulnerable with you as you are vulnerable with me as we get to know one another in this ministry.
And finally, we must be vulnerable with those we are ministering to. I saw this past week when I was introduced to the ministry this past Tuesday night some awesome and powerful ministry happening already here at Red Valley. I saw people being vulnerable as they served this community. And it is this type of vulnerability that we will grow this church, and grow in our maturity to being imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who are we, we are disciples of Christ, who are willing to bear a cross that is not pretty, nor light, but one that results in God making something as ugly as our faith, into something too beautiful to gaze upon. Thanks be to God. Amen.