Do You Know Who You Are?


Do You Know Who You Are?

This Sunday is Legacy Sunday or Stewardship Sunday. A time when we reflect on our time, treasure and talent. It is also a time when we might be asked or might consider making a large gift to the church. Perhaps including something in our will, that part of our estate go to the church to continue the work after we are gone. While all of this is good, I would argue that ‘legacy’ is about something larger than all of this. 

Scripture: Mark 4: 30-32

An excerpt from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church: a history:

“There were many active organizations in the church at this time. The youth groups were especially active in winning banners and awards in the Presbytery of Peterborough, and a Bible Class for men, and a Presbyterian Men’s Club were organized.

“So, the world went steadily forward and the first Sunday of 1937 arrived. The services were conducted as usual with a note of optimism and trust for the New Year. Later in the evening, after the congregation had departed and the doors were locked, a disastrous fire destroyed the lovely old building leaving it a smouldering mass of ruins…

“Despair might have overcome them but a tenacious desire to maintain the fibre which constituted their past persisted and with concentrated effort and determination they arduously rebuilt the church.”

Under the guidance of R. T. Mohan, chairman of the Building Committee and J. D. Burnet, chairman of the Building Fund Committee the congregation began the efforts of rebuilding. A plaque thanking all those involved in that effort hangs in the Narthex. On July 14, 1937 the cornerstone for the new church was laid.

During that year when we were without a place to worship of our own, we were not without friends. The congregation of Calvary Baptist, located a stones throw down the road opened their building to us allowing us to continue to worship each Sunday morning.

On Thursday December 16, 1937 in the presence of distinguished gathering of Clergy and the citizens of the town and district, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was dedicated to the Glory of God and the service of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Do you know who you are?

The congregation could have closed shop. The congregation could have said that the effort of rebuilding a new church, only 50 years after the one consumed by fire was built, would have been too much. However, we didn’t do that. The congregation knew that its faithful presence was needed in this community.

They could have wallowed in despair. They could have asked ‘why us?’ and pondered what they had done wrong to deserve such a fate. But they didn’t, which is good. As such questions often haunt us during bad times, they stem from poor theology. God doesn’t punish us for the things we have done wrong. Instead, God gave us Jesus Christ to show a better way forward and to let us know that we are all loved and forgiven.

To be sure, the congregation could have closed its doors and perhaps no one would have blamed them.

Instead we had vision. In the Book of Joel we read:

And it shall come to pass afterward,

That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions. – Joel 2: 28

We had a vision to rebuild for the future. To sow the seeds our faith, that they might grow, that future generations might see our faithfulness and be inspired.

In Mark we read about the Parable of the Mustard Seed. A reminder that from small, seemingly insignificant things can grow something large and mighty. The mustard seed doesn’t know that it can’t grow into something large, it simply takes root, is watered, nurtured and then grows. The mustard seed, Jesus says, is what the kingdom of God is like. The kingdom of God comes from the smallest of things, the tiniest of acts and then it grows.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is the scripture passage that the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s stewardship office uses for it’s planned giving efforts. The idea that from a small gift can come something large and wonderful. It is founded on the idea of legacy giving.

What is legacy? It is defined as: an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Some of you might have wondered if this was a sermon about money when you saw the title Legacy Sunday. Some of you might have wondered what this day was about.

You might be getting ready for when I ask you to dig deep and give to the church. To increase your weekly offerings, perhaps drawing on the information in the bulletin insert about giving. All useful guidelines but lacking in one clear way. An absence of imagination. It simply isn’t big enough.

Perhaps your vision is grander than this. Perhaps you are waiting for me to ask when you might give a large bequest to the church as David Paterson did causing the creation of the Hope & Opportunities Fund or as those who had vision when the Trust Fund was established in 1984 did. Good, but still an absence of imagination.

Do you not know who you are?

Do you not know you been baptised as a child of God? Loved and beloved!

You are a new creation in Christ! Be who you are!

I would argue that legacy is something greater than this. Legacy is about more than just giving out of both pockets. The one you use for day to day spending and the one you hold on to for big projects. Legacy is far more than just who we are and where we have come from. It’s about more than knowing that this community of faith rebuilt from the ashes of fire. That brick by brick we rebuilt these walls and dedicated them to God.

Legacy is about who you are. Who you are as a child of God. Legacy is about our communal vision for the God’s kingdom here in this neighbourhood and around the world.

Legacy is about where we are going together in faith. How we are growing, being challenged and challenging the assumptions of others. Legacy is about speaking truth to power just as Jesus did. Legacy is about having a creative imagination, about sharing the creative imaginings of God with the world.

I love the book of Job. It is one of my favourites. Yes, it deals with dark and difficult subject matter. It asks the question about God’s fairness, about why bad things happen to good people. And over the course of the its narrative it is full theology and philosophy, most of which will put you to sleep as you read it. And after about forty chapters of Job debating with his three friends, wondering when God will answer his questions. Wondering if God cares at all, well God shows up.

Except God doesn’t do what is expected. God doesn’t answer any questions of Job. Instead, God reminds us of the breadth and the depth of God. Of how truly wonderful God’s creative imaginings are. We read:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place. – Job 38: 4-12

God reminds Job that there is more to this world that he has imagined and God dares Job to imagine a larger world. A reminder that we are called to do and be more than we believe we are.

Do you not know who you are?

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Legacy is about more than the money in your pockets. It is about who we are as children of God, followers of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. I invite you to ponder who you are as a baptised child of God, to consider what it means to be a royal priesthood and to marvel and delight as you bask in God’s wonderful light.

“Despair might have overcome them but a tenacious desire to maintain the fibre which constituted their past persisted and with concentrated effort and determination they arduously rebuilt the church.”

The church has been built. You are the church, strong and true. Trust in God and the calling placed on your life. That just like a tiny mustard seed you can also do wonderful and miraculous things. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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