The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, October 11, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
…dedicated to Warren, Jan, Jim, Anna and Mike in recovery…Kelly and Chad, Patricia in their loss…
“…but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, and good fruit, impartial an sincere…peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness…” (James 3:17)
“…no one has heard, no ear perceived, no eye has seen any God beside you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. How can we be saved? All of us have become like an unclean persons and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. We all shrivel up like a leaf and our sins sweep us away like the wind. No one calls on your name or strives to take hold of you…Yet, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay and you are the potter. We are the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:4-8)
“…we love because He first loved us…if anyone says “I love God”, yet hates his brother or sister, that person is a liar…because anyone who doesn’t love his brother or his sister, whom that person has seen, cannot love God, whom that person has not seen…and He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister…” (1 John 4:19-21)
“…there will be terrible times in the last days…people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having the form of Godliness but denying its power…” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
“…like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, arebeing built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 2:2-5)
Would you pray with me today?
Okay, Lord, I praise you. I love you…you are there! I sense your presence and, yes, I love you, but yet…today I’m feeling alone as a human being among other human beings, and I am reaching out to you… I’m fed up with artificial human relationships. I’m tired of hiding. Give me the courage to reveal who I really am, as you have revealed who you really are to me. I want the satisfaction of others knowing the “real me”, and yet, loving me, and wanting fellowship with me. I sense you have called me to this hour…
Thank you for your Church and true believers who are committed to embrace imperfect human beings like me…Lord, aren’t we all the same? Understanding who we really are? And afraid to open up…?
Motivated, I’m starting out again today…risking disclosing who I really am to at least one person with whom I feel safe…I’m letting go of my protective devices and risk being vulnerable—even though I’ve been taught and encouraged differently—even though I’ve taught myself to hide. I’m going to disclose who I am in a way that reflects Christian directness, self-responsibility, honesty, and self-love bestowed upon me by Christ.
I know that my local church community will be stronger and more influential because I enterprise to do so.
.God…help me let go of my fears in regard to other human beings. Help me accept who I am, and help me let go of my need to be who other people want me to be. I know you will. I know that once I am committed to remaining pliable—I can remember that you, Lord, are the Potter and I am the clay. This decision will make me happier and make me feel genuine. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me as I am.
The inspiration for this message is the result of a conversation recently with a dear friend I have known for years. I’ve shared one significant experience after the next with her over many years. We have been good friends and creditable ministers together. Recently she chose to tell me information about herself that she had kept from me for decades…and I understand why. I wasn’t astounded by knowledge of the information she shared, nor was I shocked by her story. I felt so rewarded and so gratified that she had trusted me with the information. It was as if I had succeeded in fulfilling my intention decades ago of being accepting of others without condition. I wish to call that empathy. In addition, I would add my appreciation of her openness the courage of genuine person. Isn’t life just great? As I accepted her disclosure, I felt accepted.
Learning to gently reveal who we are is how we open ourselves up to love and intimacy in our everyday relationships. Many of us have hidden under a protective shell that prevents others from hurting us. No. All too often we don’t want to be that vulnerable. We don’t want to expose our thoughts, our feelings, our fears, our weaknesses, and sometimes (even often) our strengths to others. Might I add, these days, when people will reject us discovering that we are meat-eaters or vegetarians, Californians or from the State of Utah (suspecting that we just might be Mormons), Republicans or Democrats, Roman Catholics or Protestants, Evangelicals or Jews, we can very readily hide within ourselves with good reason…
2 Timothy 3:3 (above)
However, it is not healthy to hide.
We don’t want others to see who we really are…we are afraid…
especially in the Church…we shall overcome…
It’s a shame, but it’s the truth! It’s scary, but it’s true…
What can we do to break down the walls we ourselves have built?
We are often afraid others will judge us, that they will go away, or not like us, that they will cut us short. We ourselves may be uncertain that…who we are…is okay. We don’t exactly how much of ourselves we should reveal to others. Trust me, it is more difficult to vulnerable these days than ten years ago.
I’ve been there…and you have, too…being vulnerable can be outright frightening these days, especially, if we have lived with people who have abused, mistreated, or manipulated us…or didn’t really appreciate who we are, giving no sense of self-esteem. Slowly…one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time…we have learned how important it is to take the risk of revealing ourselves, and we begin to disclose our inner life by bits and pieces. Sometimes, out of fear, we may have withheld information about ourselves, thinking it would help a relationship here and there…or would help others to like us more.
It proved to be a false supposition. This notion of self-fulfillment in hiding proved to be an illusion.
…GROW UP IN YOUR SALVATION… (above) […now what could that possibly mean…]
Yes, withholding who we are doesn’t help us. Withholding is a behavior that backfires on us. For true closeness to exist and flourish we need to be known. For us to love others unconditionally and to be perfectly content in a nurturing kind of relationship we need to risk exposure with wisdom from above. Really, in any case, we need to disclose who we are. Our faces are nice…our hearts are a treasure.
That doesn’t mean that—without wisdom—we can tell everything to everyone all at once. I’ve often noticed that particular approach is self-defeating. My response…just be yourself…there will be ample appropriate opportunities to “open-up”…and…it will be a double blessing, especially in the church setting…to others to know they don’t need to hide…and often the opportunity for ourselves to open up. So, we can learn to trust ourselves about who to tell, when to tell, where to tell, and how much to tell. I am so glad to be in my present church community this “openness” has been a blessing over the decades. That’s one of the reasons we exist. A number of years back, the nationally-syndicated show host, John Jolliffe, came into our sanctuary, paused for a silent moment, as we looked on, and said, “I can tell what God’s gift is for this congregation, it is love…it is Jesus-like compassion.” What a wonderful affirmation!
To trust that people will love us…and like us…exactly as we are…is the goal. We become frightened at times this will not be the case. However, it is the only way we can realize what we aspire to in relationships. To let go of our need to control others…their opinions…their feelings about us…is the key. The opportunity to share the truth about ourselves will come at just the right time. We will recognize it. God’s timing is perfect. We need to commit to come clean. Authenticity. Transparency. I am ready. Are you?
What is the key? What is the accurate presupposition underneath a successful life of being vulnerable?
TO LOVE GOD SO MUCH YOU WE ARE NOT SO CONCERNED ABOUT OURSELVES THAT WE LIVE IN CONSTANT FEAR OF BEING EXPOSED OR GET THE IDEA THAT WE ARE NOT WORTH THE EFFORT
Deuteronomy 6:4,5 — The “Sha’ma” (I gave my youngest daughter this name.)
“Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
[Jesus of Nazareth (4 BC-29 AD) identified this verse as the greatest commandment in the Mosaic Law, the greatest verse, if you will, in the Bible. Why? I thought John 3:16 was. O yes, John 3:16 wasn’t yet written by Saint John…we’d have to wait another 85-90 A.D. for this verse to eventually appear in the Canon.]
This is not a “religious verse”, per se. You cannot step up to the level of this Spiritual excellence by being ethical and doing good. This is a deep Spiritual teaching which goes beyond the ethical dimension of the religion of “do this” and “don’t do that”. The key word in the verse is “love”! A passionate concern for the Almighty, the Creator, the “First Mover”. There is a reminder for us. We must love. We must love God above all else. Everything else is fake religion…fake faith. We must do, but we must do whatever we do, in love. Be a do-gooder, but love God. Be a do-gooder, but make your passionate priority to love God. And then, as Saint Augustine said, “Love God…and then do…whatever you want to!” What a statement! When we start to passionately love God, we start to “open up”. It’s really not all about me anymore. We thereby establish a priority in life that will ultimately set us free.
Remarkably, like a plant which develops a blossom, we start to bloom and we learn to open up because the desire to do so rises up within us. Jesus is pulling for us mightily in the process. We prosper when the brilliant orb shines into our darkness and there is warmth that comes with exposure to the Son…
May this Sunday be especially good for you and those you love!