“Who You Are”
Washtucna Community Presbyterian Church
Installation Sermon for Kriss Botino
What an honor and privilege this day is! I am so excited for you, Church! I met Kriss almost exactly 4 years ago, in North Carolina, at a mid-career professional development and health conference sponsored by the PCUSA’s Board of Pensions called CREDO. There were, as I recall, four of us from Washington State at this conference, one from Olympia, one from Seattle, me from Inland Northwest, and this bubbly, bouncy, cheerful, dancing and singing woman from Central WA Presbytery!
As the 10-day conference progressed, I learned just how authentic and real that bubbly, bouncy, cheerfulness truly was. Then I learned she was going to start serving as Interim Pastor in the same Presbytery where I serve! What could be better!
And because we are now allowed to become a Called Pastor straight from the role of Temporary Pastor – there a few extra hoops to go through, but still …. Pastor Kriss Botino is MOVING to this Presbytery, and to your community! THAT’s what could be better!
When Kriss called me this past Monday and asked if I might preach at today’s service – I realized I was probably not her first choice – and then I realized how full and busy this week was going to be … so when she gave me permission to not develop a message that lasted 45 minutes, or even 25 minutes (I kind of got the impression that FIVE minutes woulda been acceptable!), I was both relieved and already having a clue where this might go.
Are you ready?
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
Today is Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at Who We Are.
Listen with me as Paul describes Who We Are from his letter to the Philippians 1:1-11….—-
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
This letter is written, specifically, to the church in Philippi – but I believe it applies to every church which follows Jesus Christ.
Did you hear the descriptors?
- God’s holy peoplein Christ Jesus – God’s Holy People … in Christ Jesus!
- God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – if God is our Father, then we must be His children – and if Jesus Christ is Lord then we must be His servants!
- partnershipin the gospel– Partners in the Gospel? What a right? And what a responsibility!
- all of you share in God’s grace with me – co-heirs with Christ!
Isaiah 44:21-22 reveals the heart of one who knows he has sinned against God, but then God responds with these words: “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”
Most of us tend to believe either that we are good enough that we can earn our way into God’s favor, or that we are so bad God could never forgive us and accept us into His graces. That was true of the people of Israel all those centuries before Jesus was born. And, to be honest, it’s true of me some of the time; and it’s true of you, too. Martin Luther once said something about how he had to preach “saved by grace through faith” every week because every week his people forgot it.
God says here, “Remember who you are. You are mine. Return to me, for I have saved you.”
God says that to Gideon in the book of Judges – while Gideon is hiding in a cellar God calls him a “valiant warrior!”
God calls a young shepherd boy named David the greatest king Israel has ever had!
Who You Are!
In October 2002 I had the privilege of officiating over the memorial service of a former Washtucnian – Nikoleb Laurence Kutasovich was 103 years old when he died. He had moved to Washtucna in 1915 when we was 15 years old, to avoid the Great War (WWI) in Belarus. I met him in 1995, a couple of months after I had moved to Spokane, and into his church. Nick Kutas never forgot who he was! After 80 years of living in the USA, and then another 7 more years, I could not understand a single word this dear man said! His Russian accent was so strong. But the one word I could “get” was “Washtucna”!
Three years later, his sweet wife Daisy Kutas passed away, and I conducted her service in your cemetery, and you held a beautiful reception for her family right here. Daisy, whom I could understand, knew exactly who she was in Christ!
Did you ever see the 1994 Disney animated telling of The Lion King?
In one scene, after Mufasa, the king, had been murdered by his brother, Simba, his son, is crying out for his father’s help. And from the night sky Simba hears his father’s voice (this is my best James Earl Jones vocals), “Remember who you are. You are my son. And the one true king.”
Friends, remember who you are. John the Apostle tells us that “to all who received Jesus, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
And Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 5:45 that we “may be children of our father in heaven.”
Friends, remember who you are – beloved sons and daughters of our Father in heaven!
Become who we are called to become, simply by receiving Him, believing in His name, and standing for His truth!
Be the children of God – trust in Him so that you might believe in him a little more every day!
I preach this message to myself! I need to remember Who I Am!
Because this is a Presbytery gathering, I preach this to the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest! Remember Who We Are!
But, especially, on this Reformation Sunday, I preach this to the Reverend Kristine A. Botino – and to the Washtucna Community Presbyterian Church –
In every situation, through every storm and trial, with every potential pain and victory – Remember – and Become – and then Be – WHO YOU ARE in Christ Jesus our Lord! – Beloved children of the King of all kings! Amen.
The Lion King; Disney; 1994.