Sermon Text: Show and Tell
I brought something for Show & Tell today. I found this sermon out on a walk. I had finished 6 miles of an 8 mile walk last week. I saw something on the shoulder of the road. It turned out to be this name tag.
It's from Dunkin' Donuts. I has the DD Dunkin' Donuts logo. It says, "My name is DUNCAN." And then, in small print under that: "Because I forgot my name tag today!"
At first, I chuckled. Duncan who works at Dunkin' Donuts. Cute, right? Then I thought some more. And I decided it's kind of mean.
It is not easy working in a job like that. Low pay, fast food, grumpy customers. We encounter lots of people working in fast-food restaurants, or as clerks in convenience stores, or other entry-level jobs. It would be kind to remember they don't make much money and often deal with difficult people. I'm sure many of these workers have a tough time.
And then there is this name tag. It's kind of an insult. It says to this employee, "You were dumb today. You forgot your name tag. So we're going to call you a dumb name today."
Is this a good way to treat another human being? I don't think so. And the fact that this name tag was apparently tossed out of a car window tells me it was not well received.
You know, if someone makes a mistake, I try to lighten up, and let it go, if possible. Granted, I sometimes fail at that...I'm grumpy sometimes, and as human as anyone else. Sure, I tease my friends, and that's for fun. But I hope I never insult someone in a serious way, as I believe this name tag does.
I want to lighten up and let it go. Nobody's perfect. We would do well to cut each other some slack whenever we can. And let me tell you, having a disabled family member is good training for this!
You know, forgiveness is supposed to be central to Christianity. Jesus said, "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." The Lord's Prayer has the line, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." In New Testament Greek, the word "forgive" comes from a word that means "to let go." To forgive is to let it go. My wise daughter once counseled me, "Daddy, let it go...go with the flow."
And we also just heard Paul's words to the Roman church: "You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. But you have received a spirit of adoption. We are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ."
It's not about fear...it's about forgiveness.
We are not afraid...we are forgiven.
We have a new name tag...it is not an insult, but an honor.
And then there is the great text from John's Gospel we just heard: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
It's not about fear, it's about forgiveness.
We are not afraid, we are forgiven.
Our new name tag is not an insult, but an honor.
So what name tag to we give to others? How do we treat others when they mess up?
Like all human groups, the church has a poor track record. Down through the centuries, church people have given out nasty name badges to Jews, Christians of different traditions, women, people of different races, people with mental disabilities (I'm sure my daughter would have been called "demon-possessed" by church authorities in past times), homosexual people, transgendered people....you get the idea. I think it's time to give up the nasty human habit of passing out insulting name tags.
When I was a teenager, if we wanted insult another kid, we'd call him a "retard." I cringe when I remember that. I've had to speak to teens in my youth groups sometimes when they casually use phrases like "That's so retarded," or "That's so gay." Labels and words can be so explosive. My daughter would have been called a "retard" back in the time of my childhood.
And yet, she is so wise and so compassionate. I well remember the time she asked a wonderfully wise question: "If you were you, what would you do?"
That question has stayed with me. And when I have shared her wise words, they have affected other people over the years. If you were you, what would you do? Well, if I were true to myself, I hope I would not give out nasty name tags. If I were true to who I really am, I hope I would strive for justice and peace among all people. I hope I respect the dignity of every human being.
So don't call me Duncan. Don't call anyone Duncan, unless that's really his name. Call me a child of God. Call me God's adopted kid. Call me God's beloved.
And label the people around you. Everyone you meet is a child of God. Everyone you meet is God's adopted kid. Everyone you meet is God's beloved.
So that's Show & Tell for today...a name tag. Here is your true name tag: "I'm God's Child -- Inheriting Blessings Always."
That's my name tag, too. Wear it in church. Wear it out in the world.. And wear it all your life.
Wear it....and share it.