This preaching series is on telling stories. Previously, BEGINNING and LOVE Stories were shared. Next is Origin Stories.
The Call to Worship is a combination of the many I AM statements in the Bible.
Call to Worship:
one: God, we gather here because you call us by name. Yet we yearn to know your name.
all: I Am Who I Am. I am El Shaddai. I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.
one: Jesus, we gather here because you call us by name. Yet we yearn to know your name.
all: I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the vine; you are the branches.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the bread of life
one: Spirit, we gather here because you call us by name. Yet we yearn to know our own name.
all: May we discover and hear the many ways you call us to love and justice.
Take notice of how many “I” statements are made by God. God once revealed to Moses at the burning bush that God’s name is I AM, which leaves much to the imagination. However, when the Lord speaks to Jeremiah, God says more than just I AM. Notice the verbs that God uses. May these “I” sentences give us clues into who God truly is.
Did you notice all those “I” sentences? Who is this God that loves us? It is God, “the I formed, I knew, I consecrated, and I appointed.”
As author, Eugene Peterson, puts it: “We are known before we know . . . We enter a world we didn’t create. We grow into a life already provided for us. We arrive in a complex of relationships with other wills and destinies that are already in full operation before we are introduced. If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another. And this other is God.” As children of God, this in a way is our DNA. DNA is the carrier of our genetic information—information that makes us who we are as individual human beings. The relationship with God and God’s people carry the DNA of communal identity and being created in God’s image. The church as well has DNA—a code that defines its identity and personality. When a church is in congruence with what they say and what they do, there is clarity in their identity and who they are.
The genetic code of St. John’s can be found in the founder, Dr. William Scott’s son-in-law, Arthur W. Foster’s words. In the beginning, when Foster pulled St. John’s out of severe debt and moved St. John’s to this location, Foster knew it was a risk. To pull a struggling church into a desolate area in hopes for a brighter future was not only risky but a little crazy. The confidence and willingness to risk gave St. John’s the ability to change locations and venture out into a new and undeveloped neighborhood; to say ‘no’ to a safer plan of merging with another church when it was deplete of finances; and to believe in themselves that St. John’s had a vibrant future if the members were willing to put in the hard work. This is also congruent with our Presbyterian Church genetic code of “reformed and always reforming.” As Presbyterians, we believe that our faith is always changing. If as believers, we are to believe that in our DNA is a God who calls us to greater things . . . if as Presbyterians, we believe that in our DNA is a faith that is “reformed and always reforming” . . . if as a part of St. John’s, we are to believe that in our DNA is a call to be daring and confident, what if I still can’t accept or believe that? Or want to for that matter? Why can’t a part of my DNA be a faith and a life of comfort and easiness . . . or at least for a moment?
For whatever reason, Jeremiah could not see what God saw in him. Jeremiah’s not the only one. There are plenty of stories in the Bible of faithful people doing the same. Abram wondered what 100 year old man could possibly do. Moses wondered how a shepherd who stutters could challenge Pharaoh. Jacob wondered how God could call a born trickster to be leader of the 12 tribes of Israel. Esther wondered how God could call a woman with no father or mother to save her people from genocide. Mary wondered why God would choose a woman with no status or power to carry the Son of God. And yet God called them – ordinary, outcasted, not perfect people. People who forgot who and whose they are. They lost their identity, their origin.
I shared a poem from the winner of the KoreanAmericanStory.org poetry slam, Claire Choi, who recites her poem, “Grandma.”
Worshippers were invited to share their “I am . . . ” stories.
Some of the “I am . . .” stories shared were:
- I am a defender of the faith, not as an aggressor against other’s beliefs, but a defender of the common values of love, respect and the rights of human decency and virtues.
- I am loved, known, full of possibility, always capable of growing into who I truly am.
- I am not the person I thought I would be but loved nonetheless. Grateful for the life I have lived, so far.
- I am a plurality of every one around me, abundant. I am also the vessel that holds this slurry of occupants. I am the space between the walls of this vessel and the congregants within.
God the Sculptor of the Mountains
When Hands Reach Out and Fingers Trace
God Be the Love