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Worship: February 18, 2024

Below is an incomplete sermon outline. Please be aware it is for general use.

This Lent, our theme is What R U Up 2? Get Up and Do Something”

As part of that theme, we are focusing on finding who we are today. We need to do the work of examining who we are. 

Who are you? Who do you want to be? 

These are questions I think about often.

We are on a never-ending quest to discover who we are. Every day, we can learn something new about ourselves. 

In my previous church, I heard many times, oh, you’ve grown. Many times, I thought, I’m ready to stop growing. 

But that’s not how life works. It might seem exhausting to be ever aware of one’s growth, but it’s true. We are on an endless discovery. 

We are in the age of authenticity. 

This age takes seriously a quote from Socrates: The Unexamined life is not worth living.” 

A characteristic of the age of authenticity is questioning how social norms influence who we are, especially our perceptions of who we are or who we can be. 

Social norms are not harmful in themselves. We need them to keep a sense of decorum. Social norms can be how much distance there needs to be between two people having a conversation. In some cultures, people stand very close; in others, people are further away. 

What type of language is acceptable? We generally frown upon the overuse of curse words. 

Giving up your seat on the bus to someone who is pregnant. Just to name a few examples. 

Where social norms can become harmful is when we set limits or expectations on who someone can be and how they need to present themselves in society. 

Some examples are: 

It wasn’t too long ago, and in some areas, still the case: Young girls were told they were limited to being housewife, teacher, secretary, nurse. All fine jobs in themselves. The issue is that social norms. One of the benefits of the feminist movement is that a little girl can imagine herself growing up to be an astronaut, lawyer, doctor, or vice president. 

A social norm is that everyone needs to be in a heterosexual relationship and have kids. 

We have social norms

Men cannot be flamboyant. Women must be feminine. 

Men cannot paint their nails. Women must look beautiful. 

Men wear pants. Women wear dresses. 

Boys cannot cry. And so on. 

Fathers need to be distant. Mothers are closer. 

Fathers do not tend to their children. 

Social norms can be used to suppress someone’s self-expression and suppress who they are. 

Instead of using the word breaking because that implies negative and violent. It is better to think it is a modification of the social norms. 

But for some, it does feel like a breaking. Like the social fabric being torn apart. 

The changing of some social norms leaves some people uncomfortable. And I understand where they are coming from. There are times when I have seen something I hadn’t expected to see a person wearing and thought, that’s weird. 

When seeing a person present themselves in a different way than what is normally expected, it’s natural to feel some sense of discomfort. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s okay to be stuck in that place. 

When this discomfort is not met with openness and curiosity, it can turn angry. I’ve seen many examples of this anger when I’ve seen clips of some preacher’s sermons. They get angry and riled up, screaming at the top of their lungs. Or videos from some social media influencers who use the differences to make money by riling up those who feel like they do. In an age like ours, it is crucial to  

For some, changing social norms feels like they’re being personally attacked. That’s a misunderstanding. One person’s freedom of expression should be celebrated.

Social norms do not stay consistent. They change over time.  

What’s important to know is that changing social norms does not mean being free for all. You can be who you want to be so long as the intention is not to hurt someone else. A man painting his fingernails isn’t going to harm anyone.  

New social norms take time to be accepted. It does not happen overnight. 

In Christ Jesus, we are raised up from the waters.

The waters of baptism wash away anything that keeps us from being who we are, all the things we contain within ourselves. From the moment we are born, other people tell us who we should be, how we should act, and what is socially acceptable. 

Baptism, in part, is welcoming someone into the life of the Christian faith. Christian faith isn’t the faith of suppression. It’s not a faith of modifying all social behaviors. 

Come up out of the waters…And be who you are…

Jesus didn’t act like he was supposed to. As a man, he was supposed to have a family. He wasn’t supposed to have 12 disciples. He wasn’t supposed to walk around with long hair. Some of the earliest depictions of him are with longer hair than would be expected of the time for a man. 

A family story is that when my mother’s oldest brother had long hair when men were supposed to wear their hair short, Someone asked the pastor. What the pastor said was perhaps not what the person had expected. He said Jesus had long hair. 

It’s a faith of freedom. Freedom to be as fully human as we can be. Jesus’ humanity is the purest form to be human. His love. His grace. His compassion. His nurture is what it means to be fully human. He is the ideal person. To be who we are.

After baptism, living in a wilderness of temptation. The temptation Christ experienced was for him to denounce who he was. 

The Gospel accordion to Mark is light on details. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness and tended to by angels. Matthew and Luke have more details: 

From the Gospel according to Matthew. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, 9, and he said to him, “All these I will give you if you fall and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

Bibles, Harper. NRSV, The Guidebook: The NRSV Student Bible (p. 2771). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

We are tempted to believe something about ourselves that we are not. The temptation to make sure other people conform to our picture of how a person should look or talk.

Searching for the authentic self is one of the great blessings of our time.

As you know, my sister had my nephew Jameson. When my grandma and I visited them shortly after his birth, I noticed something. My sister’s fiancé held Jameson as much as my sister. He changed his diaper more than my sister. He’s been a loving and nurturing father. When my sister said, “We are moving back home” to Wisconsin from Tennessee, he agreed.

Searching for the authentic self gives all of us to express that which is contained within us. To not suppress the emotions we contain. It gives us the freedom to be who we are. By being an Open and Affirming church, we celebrate differences; we celebrate people to be who they are.

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