About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who Do You Think You Are?

2017-06-11 Genesis 1:1-2:4 Who Do You Think You Are?


Who do you think you are?


Has anyone ever asked you that? Did you want to be asked? Did the person asking really want an answer?


You might have a son. You might have a daughter. A beloved son. An adored daughter. The light of your life. The apple of your eye. But there may have been a day when you looked at that beloved son, a day when you looked at that beloved daughter – perhaps in their teenage years – a day when you asked them very seriously, "Beloved Son – Adored Daughter – WHO do you think you are?"


Now I don't want to make any false assumptions about you good, Christian people. But I wonder. I wonder if you can recall a day when your father, or your mother, or even worse, your grandmother, stared you in the eye, called you by all three of your names –


Stared you in the eye and asked, "First Name, Middle Name, Last Name (Social Security Number, Birthdate – the more completely they ID you the more trouble you know you're in) – fingerprint picture, DNA sequence –


"WHO do you think you are?"


I wonder if you might be able to recall such a day. A day when you inquired this of another person, or when someone performed an interrogatory on you…


Who do you think you are?


Maybe just thinking about this has raised your blood pressure a few points. Maybe you have a physical reaction to just hearing the question – the mere insinuation that you, hypothetically, might be in trouble.


Do not fret. You're in church. The one place where even if you are in trouble, we have to forgive you. Things are different in church. At least they should be. In church, when we ask the question, it doesn't mean you're in trouble. In church, it's not an indication; it's in invitation. The question is not an indication of trouble; instead, the question is an invitation to ease your troubles. It's an invitation to honest, spiritual, holy self-awareness.


Who do you think you are? Your answer says far more than you think. It says more about you than just your name. But even more important, far more important, who you think you are says a whole lot not about what you think of yourself, but about who you think God is.




If I had the power of hypnosis. And if I had the power to put all of you into a deep, sleeplike trance…

…which may not be all that far from the truth, depending on the Sunday…


If I could hypnotize you, and if I could tell you that you have forgotten your own name – if you could not remember your own name – who would you be?


If you did not know your own name, who would you be? Who would you think you are? How would you find out who you are?


You might reach in your wallet or your purse to find an ID. You might pull out your Driver's License. Your Driver's License. Oh, Lordy. The single worst photo you've ever taken. "Is that me? Is that who I am?" You might look at that photo and think, "I'm a victim of identity theft!" You might wish you were.


If you could not remember your name, how would you solve the mystery of who you are?


You might think back. Think back to your parents. What were their names? What were they like? Do you have brothers or sisters? Who are they?


You might look in your phone. Who are your friends? Who are your favorite contacts? Are there pictures of you with them? What are you doing? Where were you when the pictures were taken? What would your user profiles tell you? What would your location history say? What would your timeline, your feed, your text messages, your email tell you about who you are?


The old proverb goes, "A man is known by the company he keeps." The same is true of a woman. We might these days extend the saying to, "A man is known by the company he keeps in business."


Science has a name for this. They call it "reverse engineering." You examine the output to determine the input. You look at the product to determine the source. Crime investigators do this, too. They piece together the puzzle of clues to reassemble the big picture of whodunit. A good therapist will help you listen to yourself to construct a self-portait of whodoesit. And in church, we listen for the Word, we pray for the Spirit, we learn from the Scripture – in order to reverse engineer a vision of who we think we are. We do it for ourselves, but we even do it for God. In church, we are like detectives, doing our best to detect God, to make sense of the mystery of God.


Which brings us to today. Trinity Sunday. You thought I wasn't going to get there. Oh, ye of little faith.




We are all familiar with the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost. We sang about it this morning. Twice.


Holy. holy, holy
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.


The Trinity is so familiar we don't even think about it. The words just roll of our tongues.


But did you know, the word, Trinity, is nowhere in the Bible? The idea of the Trinity as God as three persons, three unique persons yet one common being wouldn't be set down in the rules of the church for another three hundred years after Jesus.


Now, everyone knew God the Father was in the Bible. Everyone knew God the Son was in the Bible. Everyone knew God the Holy Spirit was in the Bible. But it took three hundred years of praying, reading, listening, and learning before the great minds of the church managed to agree on how to reverse engineer the three persons into one name, Trinity. And even then there wasn't complete agreement. It took them three hundred years to come up with a reasonably satisfactory answer to the question, "Who do you think God is?". Three hundred years to piece together the evidence and to give the mystery a name: Trinity.


This morning, in churches all around the world, the words of the First Chapter of Genesis are being read. Can you hear them? Can you feel the unity of mind and spirit that flows from those words and forms all us different people into one body?


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.


The church comes together on Trinity Sunday to read those magnificent, holy words aloud. We proclaim our faith that ALL of God was present in creation. We proclaim that ALL of God has brought all that is into being. We proclaim that ALL of God is in the moon, that ALL of God is in the sun, that ALL of God is in the plants yielding seed, and the fruit trees bearing fruit, and in the cattle of every kind, and in creeping thing that creeps upon the ground, and in every swimming thing that swims in the sea.


We proclaim that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – ALL of God – flows, dreams, dances through the universe as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen, amen!


We spy the awesome mystery of the galaxies, we hold the miracle of tiny babies and we proclaim in all of life, from the greatest to the smallest, all of this is good. We proclaim all of this is good because all of God has declared it good.


What do we think this is? This is God's creation.


Who do we think God is? The One creator who is also at the same time Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


And Who? Who do we think we are? We think. We believe. We proclaim. That we are, by the grace of God, part of God's creation.






I don't like to say it, but I would fail at my job as a preacher if I did not say, "But – one more thing."


One more thing.


And it is this.


I said that in church we strive to answer the question, "Who do you think you are?" on a deeper level. Because we know that we are more than our names. We know that we are more than the sum of our parts. We know that we are more than the collection of our actions, good and bad.


The one more thing is, I think, the most important thing. If we come to church to find an answer to the question, "Who do you think you are?" then we have failed. Because it's not enough. It's not enough to know who you are. It's not enough to know who you think you are. The question isn't finished.


In church, we make an addition to the question. In church, we add two little letters. In church, we add an S and we add an E. We put them at the end of that first word, Who. Because in church we believe that who you think you are is important, yes, but it is not nearly enough. It's not nearly enough to answer, "Who do you think you are?" That's not enough. So in church, we add the S and the E and infinitely improve the question. WHOSE you think you are? WHOSE are you? To whom were you created and to whom do you belong in body, mind, and soul?


WHOSE do you think you are? We've got preachers who tell us. We've got teachers who tell us. We've got a building full of members who can tell us. We've got a Bible that tells us – from its first page to its last – not WHO we are, but WHOSE.


WHOSE do you think you are?


How you answer that question might not get you out of trouble. How you answer that question might even get you INTO trouble in the right circumstance.


But holding onto the answer of WHOSE you think you are will bring you into the fold of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who hold you in their love as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.


WHOSE do you think you are? You belong to God. You belong to the church. You belong to each other. You belong to the love of God, born of the Father that proceeds with the Son and unites us in the Holy Spirit that makes us one.


That is the one more thing. That is the most important thing. May the unity of the Trinity create in you a sense of who you are and faith in whose you are, now and ever shall be. Amen.