“I Like You Exactly As You Are”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21

 

Psalm 14

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.

O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

 

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


 

There are some things markedly different about God’s Kingdom than our own kingdoms and our own ways.

For one thing, God welcomes all people as family BEFORE anyone has deserved it.  This scripture from Ephesians makes mention of how every family in heaven and earth takes its name from God the Father.  I do not read this mention of God as a father literally, meaning that God has a male anatomy.  I read this to say that from God we all take our family name.  From God we have all come.  In God, we all are family; we all belong.  I understand from this that God claims us.  God calls us family!

 

That is wild if you think about it.

 

If we meet a rock star or famous person, we are quick to tweet or post or Instagram it.  Somehow we feel elevated by this proximity to power and fame.  But think about God. Adopting. Us.

THAT is something to tweet, post, Instagram about!  That is shocking and wonderful!

Being people as we are, we may be tempted to think we’ve somehow deserved this – or else God wouldn’t have adopted us.  It’s the classic, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good” logic.  But in actuality, this scripture reminds us that God’s love and adoption extends over all the globe to everyone.

 

Is everyone good?  No, in fact our Psalm from this week very articulately reads,

there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.

 

No one.  No, not one.  No one does good.

Notice this scripture does not say, “No one IS good.”  In fact our creation stories say quite the opposite.  “God looked at all God had made and saw that it was very good.”

No, we are good.

But we do not DO good.

Our behaviors are riddled with sin.

Our personhood, is very good!

 

But unlike everywhere else in this world.  God does not wait until we fix our behaviors to show us mercy and love.  God does not hold acceptance over our heads like a carrot, or a cake, or ice cream, to motivate us to DO GOOD.

No, God loves us and calls us family WHILE we are still sinners.

 

I watched the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” while it was in theaters.  If you’ve not watched it and you appreciated the life and work of Fred Rogers from PBS’s Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, I encourage you to do so.  It’s at Redbox now.

In the documentary, you learn about why Fred Rogers did what he did:  why he felt so strongly about being present with children, and why he chose to teach and empathize through children’s television instead of entertaining with the absurd and sensational.  Near the end of the documentary, the host reflects on criticisms of Mr. Rogers.  Some blame the entitledness of new generations on his messages of unconditional love.  They say that what was wrong about his show was that he told a whole generation of children that they were loved just as they are, without their having to earn that love and value.

While I understand this concern, I cannot help but hear Jesus in the word’s of Mr. Rogers:

“I like you exactly as you are.”

 

Jesus did not wait until we were perfect to love us.  Jesus did not come to teach and to die and to rise from the dead with power for those who would get it right.

No, Jesus did not come to save the righteous

but to save sinners.

And remember, who does good?

No one does good.  No, not one.

We are all sinners.

We all are made good, very good.

And we all screw up.  We all have used our power to choose good and instead have chosen bad.

 

WE are who Christ came and died and rose to save!  WE are in need of God’s mercy and grace.

 

And God does not WAIT till we get our act together.  God loves us in our brokenness.  God loves us in our sinfulness.  God hates the sin and the way it ravages us and our communities.  But God loves each of us. 

 

Paul continued this pray in Ephesians asking…

“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. “

 

Paul’s whole prayer is about love.  Paul starts out confessing that everyone comes from God.  Everyone is part of God’s family.  And then Paul prays that Christ might come to dwell in each of our hearts by faith, as we’re being rooted and grounded in love..

 

Rooted

and grounded

in love.

 

Perhaps that is what Fred Rogers was working so faithfully to do.  A Presbyterian minister himself, Fred perceived that children most needed to feel loved.  They needed, not only to feel loved, but to be rooted and grounded in loveFrom that place of being loved, just as they are, children could learn to love others.  From that place of being loved, just as they are, children could learn to value themselves and one another.  From that place of being loved, just as they are, children could grow and prosper in life.  From that place of being loved, children could see the face of God.  For God is love. 

 

Through love, we know GodThrough love, Christ dwells within our hearts.

 

And Paul goes on…

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Paul continues to pray about love!  -that each of us might be given the power to understand the width and length and height and depth of God’s great love for us!  For Christ’s love surpasses our understanding, and we need God’s help to comprehend it, but as we do…as we glimpse the unstopping, never-giving up, relentless and persevering love of God for us, we are filled with all the fullness of God.

 

When we know God’s love, God’s fullness fills our being.

 

And so yes, telling children they are loved just as they are, may make them less manipulatable.  It may give you fewer strings to pull and control their psyche and behaviors.

But telling children they are loved, just as they are, fills them, more and more, with the Spirit of God.

For God is love.

 

 

So I do not know what hoops you feel you have to jump to stay in God’s good graces.

I do not know what demons you stare down, to remember who you are and to stand tall.

But I encourage you to remember

Actively remember

Writing notes to yourself

Making symbols to remind yourself, day after day,

Of God’s unrelenting love for you,

just as you are. 

 

God did not wait, for you to get it all right.

God sought you out and has been calling your name,

“My child”

“My friend”

May God give us the grace to comprehend,

Down in the depths of our souls,

just how precious

and beloved

and cherished we are

by the God of all the Universe.

 

 

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