“The [fear and] Wonder Years” Psalm 139:13-16 (July 20, 2014)

For the past couple of years Michaela has been going tumblr_m46szsKwZ01qbatwqo1_1280
to some excellent pre-kindergarden classes and has had a blast.
This year she will be starting Kindergarden and
she could not be more excited.
The only concern she has is that she doesn’t know anyone yet but
with the rate at which Michaela makes friends that concern will end
about 2 minutes after she walks in the door.

Michaela is excited.
Michaela’s daddy on the other hand is a little scared;
and not for the reasons you would think.
I am not scared because her going to school means
she is growing up so fast.
That happens, I have made my peace with it.

What scares me is that sooner or later
the voices of her peers are going to start to say things.
Things that they cannot take back.
Things that my little girl, and make no mistake
she will always be my little girl,
they will say things that she will carry with her for the rest of
her life.

She has spent the first four years of her life under our care.
She constantly hears from us about how smart she is,
how creative she is, how strong, how beautiful.
She hears that she is loved and worthy of love.
She hears that she is special, one of a kind, a beloved child of God.

But soon the voices of Bri, Grandma Cathy, and I will
not mean as much to her as the voices of her friends and peers. She will start to hear that she isn’t special, or beautiful, or smart,
or loved.
And what terrifies me is that I know she will
start to believe those voices.

I know this will happen because it happens to us all
in some way shape or form.

During our lives we hear all kinds of voices speaking all kinds of words
towards us. Sometimes the words are words of life.
Words that lift our spirits and help push us towards the 
 realization of our potential as human beings and as followers
of Christ.

And then there are the voices that speak words of death.
The words that crush our spirits and tear at the core of our being. Words that leave destruction in their wake.
Words that are difficult to recover from.

Because eventually, if you hear them enough,
the voice that shouts words of death the loudest
becomes your own.
You buy into the lies that people have told you about yourself and
you see them as true.

That is what I fear for Michaela.

That negativity will take root, and those insults will become part of
what she sees when she looks in the mirror.

A little over 16 years ago I graduated from Marinette High School in
Marinette, Wisconsin
Now you need to understand that Marinette is about
as far away from the big city as you can get.
We are talking small-town…
Small enough that I can remember when we got our first McDonald’s,
and our first Walmart,
small enough that cow-tipping was a viable option for Saturday
night hi jinks.
My Grandpa Carl was the head custodian of my high school
until the mid 90’s and two of my Aunts still teach there today.
We all found out the day after graduation that one of our classmates,
who missed graduating because he failed a couple classes,
had decided to load up his hunting rifles,
and come to graduation and start shooting faculty members and
students and then take his own life.
Thankfully someone heard about his plan and he was arrested a few
blocks away from the school.

Now fast forward to 2010,
at that same school in the same small town,
where both of my Aunts are still teaching, a student,
distraught about his girlfriend breaking up with him,
pulled out a gun in one of his afternoon classes and
held the entire class hostage for several hours.
Eventually he released the students and teacher unharmed but
when the police entered to arrest him he used the gun
to take his own life.

You have to wonder what it was that these two young men saw in
the mirror when they woke up in the morning.
What lies they had been told that they believed about
themselves and what life had in store for them.

It can happen to any one, any age, any where.
The darkness gets so big that we can’t imagine anything bigger,
anything else.
Those young men became so caught up in the drama and pain of the
moment, that they believed pain and heartache were the natural
state of things.
Any good that had happened in their lives was forgotten.
Any hope for the future being brighter was over shadowed by
the belief that the words of death spoken to them by others
and by themselves were true.
They could no longer see the fundamental truth of our creation:
that is that each life has purpose and potential.

Kathy chose Psalm 139 as one of her favorites because for her it
was a reminder of that truth.
That regardless of the circumstances of our birth or
what situations find ourselves in.
Regardless of the negative words and feelings we convince ourselves
of there is a greater truth.

This Psalm does not simply speak of God as our creator.
That while in the process of creating the universe God plopped
us into place.
No this scripture speaks of God creating us with the same intimacy
as a mother who knits booties in anticipation of new life.
The same intimacy as a sculptor who creates by shaping
clay with their bear hands.
We are being told that God knows us on a level that
we cannot even fathom.
God knows us down to the smallest molecule.
And I think this is both fearful and wonderful.

Fearful, because the god of the universe knows all about me –
at my very best, and at my very worst.
Wonderful, because the god of the universe,
who knows all about me who helped to knit me together,
hasn’t given up on me, but loves me still.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Think on that for just a moment.
Push aside every negative thought you have about your life,
your body, your intellect and think
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.

You were created with purpose, with love,
and with infinite potential stored within every atom of your being.
And not just your being, but the being of every person.
And this is a hard lesson to learn.
Because just like I fear that someone will speak words of death to
Michaela that she will someday believe
I fear that she will speak similar words of death to someone else. It’s easy to do… Sometimes we don’t even realize or pay attention to
the impact our words and our love can have on another person’s
Even I fear that I will speak words of death to someone else.
That I will be an instrument of lies that robs people from realizing
their purpose in Christ.

We see this idea played out time and time again in the
New Testament.
Jesus steps into the lives of the last, the least, and the lost
and performs miracles with his words and presence.

Do you remember the story of Zacchaeus?

Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho
who could not see over the crowds when Jesus was walking
through town and so he climbed up into a tree just so
he could catch a glimpse of Jesus.
When Jesus saw Zacchaeus he called to him by name and told him,
in front of everybody, to come down from the tree
because they were going to have dinner
together at Zacchaeus’ place.

This was all kinds of unheard of for religious leaders in Jesus day.
Zacchaeus was a Jew but also a tax collector for
the Roman Empire.
In that day tax collectors were notorious for overcharging
the people so they could line their own pockets and
Zacchaeus was apparently well known for his well lined pockets. For Jesus to acknowledge him, let alone have dinner with him,
was not something a respected Rabbi would ever do.

Yet he does it.
And people grumbled about how Jesus was
hanging out with sinners.

Do you remember what happens next?
What Jesus does?
Jesus cast the tax collecting demon out of Zacchaeus right?
NO! Of course not.
Jesus just went to Zacchaeus’s house and Zacchaeus
declared, unbidden, that he was going to give half of his
possessions to the poor and repay those he defrauded four
times what he owed them.

Until Jesus called up to Zacchaeus
the tax collectors narrative was stuck.
Nobody saw him as anything except a traitor who consorted
with the enemy and stole from his own people.

Jesus saw him for who he was.
A beloved child of God.
Known by God as he was knit together in his mother’s womb,
fearfully and wonderfully made.

We read a lot of miracles in the bible and we think that
there are magic words or huge amounts of faith required to
make a difference in lives.
But here, Jesus demonstrates that acknowledging someone
in a positive way
and that is what it did by announcing he was going to Zacchaeus’
changed, fundamentally, who Zacchaeus thought he was.

It was not walking on water,
or changing water to wine.
This was deeper.
This was the divine power to change the course of a human life on
A power that we all possess.

Our words and actions speak volumes to those around us.
They can create and build up or tear down and destroy.

We all possess a deep need to open our ears to the
words of life found in the scriptures and
found in those around us.
And we all need to ask ourselves,
before we open our mouths or move our feet,
are these words or actions going to bring life or death
to those who hear them;
and if death, then we need to be still and we need to be silent.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Like our creator we hold in our words the power of life and death,
the power to build up and to tear down.
The power to make a difference in the world,
the power to change the world,
even if it is one life at a time. Amen? Amen.

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