Senior Sunday 2019
1 Timothy 4:10-12
Before Trafton was born, someone from our congregation brought me a little book and told me that it would be helpful. I had always heard older people say there was not a manual for raising children, but when I read the title of the book I though that there was this great secret, there was actually a parents manual. The title of the book was something about raising a boy, or how to make sure your son is not as big a screw up as you are, or something along those lines. As it turned out it wasn’t a manual on how to raise kids, it was a book filled with things that dad’s should be able to teach their boys like how to whittle a stick, or skip a rock across a pond, or catch a lizard and make sure you don’t pull the tail off. It was everything that little boys needed to know, and really nothing for me about how to raise a son.
So it was, and continues to be, a lot of trial and error. We made some good decisions and there were things that I wished that I could have a do over. Trista and I talked and agreed on rules or boundaries that blew up in our faces and got lucky on some that just worked out. But one thing that I noticed is that our parenting style resembled the style of our own parents. We would often laugh because Trista or I would say something to the boys and it wasn’t our voices, but our parents voices. We would go into our bed room and just look at each other and she would say I just sounded like my mom, or I would say, that had my daddy written all over it.
As we started to spend more and more time with the parents of the boys friends we also discovered that there are some phrases, some parental advice that is pretty universal. Some of my favorites that we used with the boys often are: Life’s not fair, Fair is a weather condition or a place where you go ride the rides. Or, if all your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you?, There is the old standard Money doesn’t grow in trees, And the coup de grâce, if they refuse to eat their green beans just mention those poor starving children in Africa.
This morning I want us to notice one of those parenting phrases, it was one that mom said to me every time I left the house and I am pretty sure Trafton has heard ten thousand times this year alone. And that’s the phrase “Remember who you are, and whose you are.”
Maybe when you heard that pious, guilt inducing phrase you just knew that you had lost any chance to experience real fun or real adventure. I mean it’s kind of hard to sneak into an abandon building and swing from the rafters if you are remembering who you are. Or maybe you have heard it so many times that it doesn’t even register anymore. But I want us to take a few moments this morning, as we send you off to do what God created you to do, reflecting on that phrase.
The first part is remember who you are.
This first part deals with your self identity. Right now a significant portion of that is tied to your family, and your parents. In this church, there are people who look at you and they might not know your name, but they know that you are Craig and Carrie’s son, or Robert and Gladys’ daughter. They might not even know your name, but they know your family and you get your identity from who your parents are. It’s a key part of your identity, but every year that part of your identity will lessen.
I graduated High School 28 years ago (9 years before you guys were born!), been married for almost 24 years, one of you today belongs to me, I have bought houses, cars, pay bills, and yet there are still places in this world that I am only known as Frank and Diane’s son. Every time I go back to North Mississippi, or to this church in Huntsville, Alabama I am known as Frank and Diane’s child. But every year the amount of people in Mississippi and in the church community in Huntsville who tie my identity to my parents get fewer and fewer. And that same thing will happen to you. There will be people who tie your identity to your family, but every year that number will get smaller and smaller. As you go off to college, your self identity will be more tied to you, and less to us.
So, for just a moment I want you to think about your family, about your identity that is tied to your family. What is something that you are proud of? Can you think of a trait or characteristic you want to take with you? I know that my own family has had our moments when we put the fun in dysfunctional, but one thing I have tried to impress on the boys is that as the image bearers of God, they must love and respect everyone that is created in God’s image. I want that truth to sink into their hearts, because as the image bearers of God they are the way that God will love and save the world. And even though I pray that will be their defining characteristic in life, that’s not a decision I get to make. They, and you, get to decide what type of person you are going to be.
As you start this new chapter of your life, you are being sent from this place to go out into the world, you get to decide what traits you want to take with you. What do you want the world to know about you and about your family. In essence, for the first time in your life you are going to get to define who you are. No one is going to know that horrible nickname you got in the third grade. No one is going to know about the mistake you made in 10th grade chemistry class, or how you dropped the game winning pass, or missed the game winning bucket, or played the wrong note in the middle of a rest.
This is your clean slate, you get to define who you are. And while that is exciting, let me give you a word of warning. Every day that you are in class, every day that you are at work in your summer internship, you are writing your own reference letter. You are going to ask your professors, the people who oversee your internships, the people that you work with in the hospitals or in the offices or in the classroom to write your letters of recommendations. And they will write them based on the traits you choose to exhibit.
You are the one that writes that letter; not your professors, not your bosses, not your mom or dad, and not us here at Greenbrier. You are writing that letter through the way that you handle yourself, and deal with problems and people. For a lot of people that is frightening, to think that for the first time in your life it’s all on you. But it is also exhilarating, because you finally get to define who you are.
You get to define how hard you work, whether you take on a task head on and make sure you have enough time to complete it the right way. Or you can make the choice to wait until the last minute, cut a few corners, and just do the very least amount you can do just to say that you finished it. You get to define how well you deal with issues that arise, are you going to be someone who keeps the peace, stirs the pot, or someone who strives to be a peace maker. You get to decide if you are going to take advantage of people so that you can move up the ladder, or if you are going to be a person who strives to love God and show compassion to the people that He puts in your path. From this point forward you need to remember who you are, because it’s on you.
Secondly, you need to remember whose you are.
Let me read a familiar story to you from Matthew 3:13-16 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” I totally get what John is saying.
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
One of the things that I love about this passage, is that the entirety of the Trinity is present. You have the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, God the Father speaking from heaven and God the Son standing in the water. All of them are represented. And usually when we study this passage we talk about the fact that this is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The priests would have to ceremonially bathe before they began their service in the temple. Here we have Jesus going through that ritual so that He could begin His ministry here on earth. And while that is important, I want us to focus on something else.
I want us to focus this morning on the voice, on what God says, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” I believe it was imperative for God to claim Jesus for a few reasons. John the Baptist was the forerunner, or the one who was telling the people to get ready God was about to fulfill His promise. So God wanted John to know that the promise had been fulfilled. There were more that just John at the river, God was claiming Jesus as His Son in front of the crowd. He wanted the crowd to know that He had kept His promise and there might have been a few future disciples in the crowd that day.
But I think that God also claimed Jesus, because while Jesus was fully God, He was also fully human. And as Jesus was about to start down this path, that would eventually lead Him to the cross. What Jesus needed most was to hear the Father say, “You are my Son and you bring me great joy.” He needed to hear, you are my boy and I am so proud of you.
You need to know whose you are, because that makes all the difference in the world. I know that our 4 seniors are about to go off to college in 3 different towns. And it doesn’t mater if you are in Gadsden, Tuscaloosa, or Nashville you will not find another church like Greenbrier. It will be easy to say that since it’s not like home then I just won’t go, because it’s not like home then I won’t get invested. And even though I will gladly claim you 100 times a day, you don’t belong to Greenbrier. You belong to God, He claims you, He has dibs. If you can remember that you belong to God then I am convinced that will make all the difference in the world.
There is this heartbreaking scene towards the end of Arthur Millers play, The Death of a Salesman. Willly Lowman has passed away and his sons are having a discussion when Biff says, “He had all the wrong dreams, all, all, wrong.” Biff continues, “He never knew who he was.” To me that is one of the saddest stories in all of human history. Not the play, The Death of a Salesman, but the story that someone could live their whole life wrong because they just don’t know who they are.
If you know who you are, that will make a lot of difference here on this earth, but if you know whose you are that will make all the difference in eternity. If you know that you belong to God that will keep you out of a lot of trouble. That’s not a guilt trip, I just need to be honest with you. If you live with the understanding that God claimed you as His own, then it will make you want to live up to that calling. You won’t want to disappoint Him and that will keep you from doing some really foolish things. Which are surprisingly easy to do on a college campus.
But that doesn’t always mean that your life will be free from trouble. The truth is that if you follow the path that God has set before you, you are going to have to walk through your own valleys of the shadow of death, you will have troubles. There will be people who will praise you, and you are going to find out that there are twice that many people who will criticize you. But ultimately you will realize that the only opinion, the only approval that truly matters, is that one who has claimed you and who walks through those valleys and paths by your side.
So this morning let me remind you who you are. You are the living breathing representation of God. You are the Creators crowning achievement, and the Saviors ambassador to the world. You are a Disciple of Jesus Christ and a follower of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You have immense value that the world cannot even begin to comprehend.
But let me also remind you whose you are. You are a child of the one true King. You were purchased through the precious blood of the Lamb of the God who took away the sins of the world at the cross, and defeated our greatest enemy in the empty tomb. You are you belong to God.
So as we close this morning, let me just say, that wherever you go, and whatever happens in your life from this point forward, you have a group of people here in Anniston Alabama that promise to do whatever we can to help you fall deeper and deeper in love with God. And it is our prayer that you will not only remember who you are, but more importantly whose you are.