Many of us are spending more time on the internet and on computers than we ever have before just trying to stay in touch with each other and communicate differently for our work. When I was on a Zoom call earlier this week with some members of our congregation and I asked them what were some of the good things that had come for them out of this time of isolation, a few of them said that they had learned a lot more about how to use things they had never used before. The internet and many tools available through the internet were less scary to them now because they had come to realize how useful they could be.
Indeed, it’s a whole new world. I’m learning things every day – and it is both exhilarating and exhausting. I feel like I walk around saying to myself, “Why am I so tired?” a lot lately – and I know I am not the only one. These are strange times and they take a different kind of energy and a different way of thinking and doing than we are used to. There’s the tiring stuff of having to figure out how to order your groceries online or how to play a game online with friends instead of getting together in person – but then the cool realizations you can do all that and once you know how, it is kind of fun. We had our Saint Peters Trivia night this past week and not only did Saint Peters people play but so did some of my family from over in New York Mills. And because of technology we’ve had our readers for Sunday morning sharing readings not just from Audubon but from Alabama and Arizona. It’s a wonderful thing how connected we still are – just in new ways.
I was talking to a pastor friend about preaching in this time after Easter during Covid-19 and we expressed how strange it is and how it’s hard to even know what to talk about that might be helpful. You know that in our church and many churches we have a certain set of scriptures that are set up beforehand that we know we will be preaching on and those scriptures are often the same at different churches – so if you visit a church in California or even Australia, they could very well be preaching on the same text on the same Sunday as your home church.
But sometimes we go rogue and leave behind the prescribed scriptures for a while to do something else. And we are going to be doing that for a few weeks now. Instead, I am going to be talking about what people most want to know.
How in the world do I know what people are wondering about the most? Well, through the wonders of modern technology, of course. Have you ever noticed how when you type something into google, there will come up options below it for finishing your sentence? That’s Google trying to guess what you want to know more about – and google’s guesses come up in order of what they are most searched for.
So I typed into Google, “What does God think of…”
And below it there was a whole list of options – all coming from what people have typed in the most. Top of the list? “What does God think of me?”
That surprised me at first. Further down the list were topics you might expect – forgiveness, marriage, divorce, anxiety, fear – but at the very top of the list, “What does God think of me.”
But then I thought about things we type into search engines. A lot of times we are looking for answers to the things we think about – maybe even things not everyone is always talking about. Because there is something safer about typing a question into a search engine rather than asking even your best friend.
Sure, we care about what God thinks about the things we talk about a lot – like forgiveness, marriage, divorce, worry, fear, etc – but late at night, when I am scared or sad or feeling “less than” or defeated? Maybe all I care about is what the God who made me thinks of me. Or if God even thinks of me at all.
So, we turn to scripture for wisdom – and when we do, we find some reassuring words.
The first is that we are God’s children, God’s family. We hear that in I John – “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” And in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but members of the household of God!” And not only are we loved by God for now – but for always – as we read in Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, the Lord is with you wherever you God.”
What does God think of you? God thinks of you as God’s own. Loved. A member of God’s family. So whether during this time of physical distancing from others you have been in a house full of people or mostly by yourself, God is there with you. God is always with you wherever you go or don’t go.
What else does scripture say about what God thinks of you? God apparently thinks you are pretty unique and capable because in Jeremiah it reads that God has plans for you. Not just any old plans – plans to give you future and hope! It’s a beautiful verse – but if we look at it in its’ context, we realize this passage is written to a whole group of people—an entire nation. And if we read the verses around it, we realize that this promise God is giving to the nation of Israel is something that would be fulfilled in 70 years time. So the blessing is not individual and it is not immediate – it’s a blessing that is different than the kind of blessing we often would like.
But that is also important to remember. Yes, God sees you and loves you – but God sees and loves all God’s children. We are connected to one another. If one member of our community hurts, we all hurt. If one member rejoices, we all rejoice. We are connected to one another. I think we have learned lessons in that even moreso in recent weeks. We stay home and isolate so that the most vulnerable in our midst can stay well. We sacrifice activities and events that mean so much to us because the health and welfare of the whole matter more than our events schedule.
What does God think of you? God thinks of you as valuable and someone through whom there is future and hope – but not just you, you and your neighbor, and that stranger down the road, and that person you disagree with on the news, and all God’s children.
And I’ll highlight one more thing God thinks about you. In Galatians 2:20 it reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And in I Corinthians it reads, “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.”
In case you haven’t noticed it yet, let me highlight that our God is a God of new beginnings. Our God isn’t a God of death, but of resurrection. God doesn’t give us a word of staying exactly the same but of growth and renewal. God doesn’t leave us buried in sin, but alive in grace and mercy. The old has gone, the new has come.
So, what does God think of you? Well, precious enough to sacrifice God’s son for – but also always on the cusp of a new beginning – no matter what age we are. God can’t wait to see what is yet to be born in us and through us. What we might yet do to bring joy to a neighbor or how we might use our God-given talents to surprise and bless the world. I picture God chuckling with delight at the new things we create or think of or say. In the same way that we are delighted as we see our own children growing and becoming and evolving – God looks at us with love and pride and joy our whole lives long.
If you have ever wondered what God thinks of you, you aren’t alone. But rest assured that God sees you and loves you just as you are. God covers you with grace and mercy – you are forgiven. And God can’t wait to see what you will yet do with the life and breath you are given.
Listen to an abbreviated audio version of this sermon here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1041448/3504592-saint-peter-s-sermon-highlights-april-26-2020