From our Second Lesson, 2 Peter 2, these words: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

I have an exceedingly important question to ask you: Just who do you think you are?  It would be hard to find a more important question, and how we answer that question has tremendous implications for our lives… now and even into eternity.  Just who do you think you are? 

How would you answer that question?  How would I answer that question?  I could answer it from a strictly human perspective.  My name is Mark Gabbert, son of Walt and Anna Mae.  I live in Wellington, Colorado.  I’m a husband, father, son, brother, grandfather, pastor, teacher, coach.  I am a Caucasian American.  I am an independent voter.  I am a Lutheran Christian. 

Just who do you think you are?  Okay, maybe I need to think a little deeper.  I am a broken man, who continues to struggle with sin, who likes to try to impress others… maybe even impress others with my great humility.  I am a self-centered jerk at times, prone to struggle with greed, coveting, lust, pride, a judgmental spirit.  I am someone who has to admit to being not nearly as good on the inside as I might appear to be on the outside.

Just who do you think you are?  Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  I am a person who cares about others.  I am sensitive… when others are hurt, I cry.  I do love and appreciate my family—past and present.  I love being your pastor, and I very much want to be a good pastor, someone used by God to make a difference in the lives of others, to be a servant in His Kingdom.

Just who do you think you are?  That’s actually a pretty complicated question, isn’t it?  At least if we spend some time really thinking deeply about it.  One thing I think that’s pretty clearly true about me… I think deeply.  And even though it sometimes gets confusing, and at times kind of hurts, thinking deeply is a very good thing.  Superficial thinking is dangerous.  It can lead to superficial living.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who was martyred near the end of World War II, executed by the Nazis just days before his prison camp would be freed by the Allies, wrote a poem on this subject.  It’s called “Who Am I?”

 

Who am I? They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a Squire from his country house.

 

Who am I? They often tell me I used to speak to my warders freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

 

Who am I? They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

 

Am I then really that which other men tell of? Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness; Tossing in expectations of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making; Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

 

Who am I? This or the Other? Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. 

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

 

That last line is truly the bottom line.  We can get lost trying to figure out who we really are.  We must come to the realization that “who” we are is determined by “Whose” we are!

The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh (all of whom want to confuse us to death!) use lies that are varied and tragically effective: ‘You ought to be proud of yourself, of what you have made of yourself.  You ought to be proud of your academic success, your career success, the money you’ve made, the stuff you have accumulated, the many friends you have, and of how highly esteemed you are by others.  You ought to be proud of the fact that you have made so many good choices, and have learned from your few mistakes.  You’re really good and quite successful… especially compared to all of the miserable failures that surround you.’  Lies!

Or maybe they take the opposite approach, using other lies: ‘You’ve never amounted to much… in school, at work, with friends.  You’re a failure.  Everything you do have that looks good is superficial or artificial. You are a selfish pig; the outcome of all of the bad choices you’ve made.  Compared to a lot of people, your life is a disaster.  You’re really quite worthless.’ More lies.

So… Just who do you think you are?   Well, let me tell you who you are by telling you Whose you are: you are a child of God.  That is the absolute Truth.  It is not really about being successes or failures.  We all are both at once.  We are simul eustes et peccator… saints and sinners at the same time.  My value, your value is not determined by our successes or by our failures, by our strengths or by our weaknesses.  Our value has been determined by the fact that we are children of God, whose lives have been redeemed by our Creator/Father, whose love and affection for us are so profound that they defy description.

God loves you… not because of how good you have been or are.  God loves you… in spite of your sin and brokenness.  God loves you… and He has taken extraordinary measures to prove that love.  His love is based solely on His goodness, and not on yours.

And so, we come back at last to our text, which describes the outcome of our status as children of God.  Because of Whose we are, we now are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”   We are called to discover at a deeper and deeper level the life that we were created to live, lives of loving service, lives used by God in ways both great and small and everything in between, ways that bring about both the strengthening and the extending of God’s Kingdom.  We are all priests… people who go to God on behalf of others, and who go to others on behalf of God.  That is Whose we are and who we are.  That is our true identity.

   November 2018   
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