By Rev. Chris Jorgensen
July 12, 2020
Video of whole service: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=300445541078485
Scripture: Psalm 139: 1-18
I have been waiting to preach on this image today. As I watched Lindsey’s Bible Journaling posts appear on Facebook, this is the one that stood out to me the very most. When I look at it, I see just a barrage of negative messages that the world tells us – and sometimes we tell ourselves. They are swirling around this woman like an ominous and dark cloud: failure, unlovable, burden, lost cause, ugly, weak, useless, screw-up.
Yet these words do not breach the outline of this woman’s face because she is protected by her knowledge of who she really is: enough, forgiven, chosen, wanted, fearfully & wonderfully made, loved, Child of God.
I wanted to preach on this because I know that dark cloud. I know those messages are out there. Those voices of criticism and sabotage are clamoring to get into my head, and sometimes they do. Do you ever fall into that trap of repeating these kind of negative messages to yourself?
Well, I do.
During these coronatimes, those voices say things like this to me. No matter how hard or how long I work, I hear the words: “You are not doing enough. You really should be trying harder.” Even though I see so much love and fruitfulness and faithfulness in our church community, sometimes these words creep in: “Chris, you are not cut out for this. Who told you that you could be a leader? Who would want to listen to you? Who would ever follow you? Also, since we are on the subject, aren’t you getting a little old to be that young dynamic pastor everybody wants anymore?” I find myself saying things to myself that I would never in a million years say to someone else.
I want to be clear here. I’m not telling you this so that you will tell me these things are not true. I know they are not true. I know they are hurtful, unhelpful lies. Yet, sometimes I fall into the old habit of saying them to myself once again.
I’m telling you this because I suspect you say hurtful, untrue things to yourself as well. Maybe not all the time, but I am willing to bet at least sometimes. I’m going to ask you to take just a moment to reflect on that. You don’t have to share in the comments. I know this is hard. Just reflect for a moment – what negative thoughts and messages do you sometimes repeat to yourself about who you are or what you do?
Now, I’ve also been waiting to share this story with you. How many of you know about the Netflix TV series called Queer Eye? Well, Queer Eye is a makeover show, not that different from say Extreme Makeover Home Edition or What Not to Wear, except that Queer Eye features a team of five diverse gay men who work with a new hero (who has been nominated by their friends) each episode. This team of gay men (made up of Tan, Karamo, Bobby, Antoni, and Jonathan) swoops in and pretty much makes over every facet of the hero’s life: clothes, hair, house, food, etc. In every episode, it turns out that the hero’s problems don’t really stop with the surface stuff of having an excess of cargo shorts or bad 80s wallpaper. There’s often something deeper going on with them that’s stopping them from living a full life.
Well, Season Five just came out on Netflix. It began with an episode about a gay Lutheran pastor named Rev. Noah Hepler. As usual, he needed help from the Queer Eye team. His beard needed a trim, he needed a new wardrobe, and even his church sanctuary got a makeover in the episode. He also was having problems connecting with his community and thriving in his ministry. He was carrying this self-doubt around with him as he tried to be a pastor to his congregation.
So the Queer Eye team had a bit of an intervention for him. They brought together two confident, experienced queer pastors: the first openly gay Lutheran bishop, Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin and the first openly trans Lutheran pastor Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer.
They all sit down together, and there’s this great scene where Bishop Erwin and Pastor Megan listen to Pastor Noah’s story. They sort of pastor this pastor. They listen, they hear about his journey and the guilt that he carries for not coming out sooner, for not fully sharing his truth sooner, for not being bolder in the past.
Then this happens. Pastor Noah tells the bishop and Pastor Megan about a young man in his congregation who grew up in that congregation. Pastor Noah shares how that young man came out as gay recently. And unlike his own upbringing which was not accepting and affirming, Pastor Noah knew this young man’s journey would be different. He knew with no doubt that this young gay man’s church was one place in the world where that young man would be loved and accepted just as he is.
And Pastor Megan looked Pastor Noah right in the eye. They said to him, “Would you ever tell that young man that he did not come out soon enough?” Noah said, “Of course not.” And Pastor Megan, with equal parts compassion and gentleness and with no small bit of ferocity said, “Well, then, why do you tell yourself that, Child of God?”
Would you ever tell someone you loved that they are ugly? Would you ever tell someone you loved that they are weak? Would you ever tell someone you loved that they are worthless? Would you ever tell someone you loved that they are not good enough, strong enough, capable enough of being the person God calls them to be or doing the work God calls them to do? Well, then, why do you tell yourself that, Child of God?
Psalm 139 that we heard today makes two things very clear. One is about us, and one is about God.
First, we are made in God’s beautiful image.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
And second thing this Psalm tells us, is that God is always with us:
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
…In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
I come to the end —I am still with you.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image for one purpose. You are to reveal that image to the world so that everyone will see God’s love … and so that one day we will look out at our city and our country, and we will see nothing but the love and compassion of God reflected back at us.
That is who we are, and that is our call. The negative voices of our culture and our mind might constantly try to stop us, but God is with us even in our very worst moments, even when we say terrible things to ourselves, even when we are tempted to give up.
God is always with us, whispering:
You are loved,
You are enough,
I have given you everything you need
to love the world into wholeness,
So why not start by loving yourself,
Child of God?
Thanks be to God.