Monday, May 22, 2017

Sermon for Easter 6: The Gift of Purpose

Easter 6:  “The Gift of Purpose”

            May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, Our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN

            What do you want to be when you grow up?  … How many heard this question when they were children? 
            How many of you had an answer then?  A doctor, a fireman, a ballerina… a teacher…. There were a lot of answers. 
            How many of you ended up doing what you said you wanted to do when you were five? 
            I know a few people who knew what they wanted to be when they were five years old … and went out and did it!  I know that almost as soon as I knew how to read and write – I said I wanted to be a writer. 
            For awhile people encouraged me, but when I got older, they started to say, well, that’s nice, but what are you going to do for a LIVING?
            What do you want to be when you grow up? 
            If anyone thinks that this question goes away when you are 18, or 22, or maybe 25, or when you get married,  I asked this question on my facebook page this week. 
            What do you want to be when you grow up? I asked.  I got some interesting responses.
            One of my friends said, simply “Queen.” 
            Another one said, “A back-up singer.”
            Another person said, “A widely read author.” 
            Another said, “A theatre director for kids.”
            Someone else said, “FAMOUS!”
            Another said, “ME.  Who I am.”
            One person said, “still trying to figure it out.”  And another person said, “Not sure yet!”  Someone else said, “Grow up!  Who wants to do that?”

            What do you want to be when you grow up?
            Perhaps that’s another way to ask this question:  “What am I here for?  What’s the purpose of my life?  What’s the purpose of our lives?” 
            In some way or another, that question doesn’t go away. 
            When I thought I wanted to be a writer, I was sure that was going to be the purpose of my life – God put me here to write and tell stories.    At this point it’s likely God has something else in mind.

            At first glance, the gospel reading for today is not about these concerns. 
            Jesus doesn’t speak directly to the idea of our purpose in life.  He is speaking to his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion, and he is trying to cram a lot of teaching in. 
            So right here, in this passage, he introduces the Holy Spirit, whom he calls the “Advocate.” 
            We may know the Holy Spirit by other names, the Comforter, or the Helper, or the Counselor. 
            Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of Truth”… who guides us into all the truth. 
            So I would think that if you want to know what your purpose in life is, you would ask the Holy Spirit.

            The Holy Spirit is the presence of God – up close and personal – with us every day and also in us.  
            Every Wednesday morning in chapel we sing a few songs and then I ask the children a question, “What do we do next?”  And they all shout, “Light the candles!” 
            And when I light the candles, I say, what do the candles remind us of?  And they say “God!” 
            And sometimes they remember or sometimes I tell them that the candles remind them that God is here, and that God is with them, and that God is even in them. 
            Then we sing, ‘This little light of mine.” 

            That’s the Holy Spirit. 
            The nearness of God.  With us, and among us, and in us.  
            And we often think of this Holy Spirit as a comforting presence, to re-assure us when life is hard, when terrible things happen, when it seems like we have no strength left. 
            The Holy Spirit is called the comforter, after all.  The Spirit is the one who is with us always, even to the end of the ages. 

            But the Spirit isn’t only a Comforter. 
            The Spirit gives us strength when we are weak, that’s sure.  But the spirit gives us strength for the mission of God, for our purpose in life – which is not something we have to go find out – it is something that is given to us.  It’s a gift. 
            Just like the presence of Jesus, the community of faith, and our identity in Christ. 
            It’s true, that God wants us to use our gifts and our abilities out in the world, and use them for good – for his glory.
             But there are a lot of ways we can do that. 

            But whatever we do, our purpose is given. 
            It is not something we have to look for. 
            Our purpose is to love God and to love others.  
             It is to shine the light.   
            Our purpose is to freely give to others the grace we have been given, through both our words and our actions.

            Back when I was first deciding to come here, one of the things I loved was the name of our congregation, “Grace Lutheran Church.” 
            I loved that you had a pre-school, I loved that you participated in ministries to homeless families, I loved that you worshipped in a variety of music styles. 
            But I always came back to the word:  “Grace.” 
            Grace is the gift and grace is our purpose in life.  Whatever we do.  Whoever we want to be when we “grow up”. 

            And while I was thinking and praying, I saw this piece of art.  “We are agents of Grace for one another”  And  I asked the artist for a copy and when I came down here it was the first thing I put in my office.  “We are agents of Grace for one another.”  That’s who I want to be when I grow up, and every day.  I want to be an agent of Grace for other people. 

            That was a gift. 
            I didn’t have to figure it out. 
            But here’s what I do have to figure out, every day:  how to do it.  How, exactly, God wants me to do it. 
            And the Spirit, the Advocate, comes along side us, to help us to pay attention, to help us to know, every day, where to go, what action to take, who to reach out to, what to say. 
             The Spirit comes alongside us, to enlighten us, to give us the wisdom to know, every day, in each moment, how we can be an agent of Grace, an agent of his love, an agent of Forgiveness.

            So it’s important what you decide to be, or do, when you grow up.  God wants us to use the gifts he has given us. 
             But the most important part is not something you have to figure out – it’s something that is given to you.
             Because whether you are a ballerina or a doctor, or a mother or a teacher, whether you scrub floors or take temperatures or sit at a computer, whether you hug children or walk dogs or make quilts, your purpose in life is this:  to be an agent of Grace. 
            To shine the light.  To give glory to God. 

            I know a congregation who put a mirror in the entry of the church.  And on the mirror were these words:  “How do you reflect God?” 
            For the people going out into the world, after worship, that was the thought, that was the question, that was the challenge.  “How do you reflect God?” 
            Because you do, you know.  The only question, every day, every moment, is  “How?” 

            And the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the spirit of truth --- will help you – will help us  -- answer that question.  
             The Holy Spirit will help us to shine the light of mercy, of grace, of compassion, where it is needed, when it is needed.

            This little light of mine.
            Let it shine.

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