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You Belong - To God - Sermon #03

You Belong - To God - Sermon #03

Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • October 1, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

Welcome & Vision

We're so glad you are here with us this morning. We're grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space this morning. As we gather together as a church, we do so in the active presence of God through our worship, community, and engagement with scripture, which we hope will lead to transformational growth in our everyday life. As a congregation we want to experience belonging, cultivate tangible joy, activate hope, and know comfort as we learn to trust Jesus more and more, enabling us to reflect the welcome and peace of Jesus to those closest to us. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you've been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision.

We are in part 3 of our "You Belong" sermon series. If you've missed a sermon in this series, please download the audio or watch the video. Let's get started with a video testimony detailing our past, present, and future as a church.

Introduction - Do I Belong?

Last week we considered the space that's made for us at the table to belong. It was at a table that I had a conversation with my biological mom about my own sense of belonging. This conversation happened near Thanksgiving as my mom and I were working on dinner together. I remember saying to my mom that I felt that no one loved me.

Now that I am older, I want to revise the story to take the edge out because I now understand the struggles that my mom was facing being a single-mom, working multiple jobs to help provide for and care for me. She was on her own. Her mom had died unexpectedly when she was a child. She had me right after high school, and she and my dad broke up after two years. She was overwhelmed too. She was struggling too. But my counselor has cautioned me about revising the way the story made me feel. I cannot recall a time where my parents ever told me that they loved me. And as I look back at third-grade Donnell, I realize that at the center of this conversation was a lack of belonging. I didn't belong at my new school. I was being bullied. I didn't feel like I belonged in my family. I was an only child. I was having a hard time fitting in. I was struggling.

I want to tell you that my mom reassured me that she comforted me. Instead, my mom called my dad. After my mom told my dad the story, he asked me a simple question, He asked, "Do you want to live in a foster home?" To which I responded, "No." That was the end of our conversation on my belonging.

As I grew up, I realized that I could experience a sense of belonging if I performed well. If I got good grades, I would receive praise and affection. When I got a scholarship to college in middle school, I learned that my parents were proud of me. When I got a job at 11, I knew that they were pleased. When I was on TV or featured in nationally syndicated newspapers, I learned from their friends just how proud they were.

It would take years before I realized that I was worthy of love and belonging whether I performed well or not. It took years to realize that my worth wasn't tied to what I produced, achieved, or accomplished. It would be years later before I realized that I already belonged, I belonged to God.

We Belong to God - Because We Are His

Our understanding of belonging starts with first hearing that we belong to God, which creates space for us to believe what we have been told.

Hear the Psalms as they declare:

1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3Know that the Lord is God. He made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture. (Psalm 100:1-3, CEB)

There is something powerful about being told who you truly are. You matter. You have worth. You are loved. As Paul in Ephesians 1 says, "You are blessed, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven." This understanding of who you are undermines the narratives you've been told or made to believe. This sense of belonging is core to identity. This why we start with understanding that we belong to God because God made us to be God's very own people.

But for those of us who struggle with belonging or with the fear of not belonging, we have to remind ourselves of who we are and to whom we belong. This is why I like this passage in Isaiah 43. God reminds the people just who they are. Even though they are held in bondage–in captivity in Babylon, it doesn't change who they are. They belong to God. We belong to God. Since we all struggle with belonging, we have to activate faith and trust that what God says about us is true.

Let me give you a working definition of trust to consider: "choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions." This is what we do when surrender to God. We intentionally risk our lives to God's grace, mercy, care, and provision.

Before moving on, I want to also acknowledge that there are some of us for whom it may not be enough to just hear it. We have to see it demonstrated. We have to experience belonging. This is what the people of God who understand and recognize their belonging do, they make visible, the invisible by doing what Jesus has commanded us to do: love our neighbors, love our enemies, forgive each other, and do good to those who mistreat you. But we won't even attempt any of this until we know to whom we belong.

This is why I so appreciate what Paul says in Colossians 3:12-14:

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Chosen, holy, beloved. Three powerful descriptions of who we are.

I'm chosen. That's a pretty powerful thing to believe about yourself. It's also a powerful thing to hear. Are we chosen or not? Does anyone really want us? Not would any have us? But would anyone want us, choose us, select us? This question gets played out everyday in our lives: at work, in social settings, in groups, in our relationships and friendships. Most of us don't feel chosen. We feel overlooked, ignored, misunderstood. When we are in this place, it's hard to feel compassionate, kind, patient, tolerant, forgiving, and loving.

At the core of our being, we need to know we're chosen in an ultimate, transcendent sense. We will only become secure in the core of who we are when believe and trust that we have been chosen by a God who wants us, created us, redeemed us, and now claims us as his own. In the Gospel, Jesus declares to anyone willing to follow him, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you." Every one of his disciples he called by name. "Come follow me."

We believe the lie of the Empire that we are out here alone in a universe that couldn't care less about us. But behind the scenes of the universe is a Creator who is tapping us on the shoulder, wooing us, drawing us, choosing us, loving us. Reassuring us that I am chosen. Those are the words that bring a well-spring of life and security.

I'm holy. When God says, "you're holy" he means, "you're mine." You belong to me. We were made "through him and for him." (Romans 11:36)

Being holy isn't about behavior or bad habits. First and foremost, it is about ownership. When Paul says you are holy, he's saying that you are God's. Pay attention to the possessive apostrophe. It means you belong to God. You are God's.

The process of giving ourselves to God is what makes us holy; it's not the shape we find ourselves in when we surrender. God invites us to come as we are and in that act of surrender, change ownership, we are no longer our own; we belong to another. This makes us holy. This makes us God's.

When we come to grips with that and give ourselves freely to God, we become holy, and that's a powerful thing to be. Powerful enough to change what we believe about ourselves and the way we live our lives.

I'm beloved. Now this one is the kicker. I'm beloved. Not "I love." Not even, "I am loved." But "I'm beloved." It means "dearly loved." There's a tenderness to it. There's a feeling behind it that you're precious and whoever it is that loves you can't help loving you.

The love of God for us revealed in the New Testament is that kind of love. Not just the love of a God who feels a moral obligation to love us. It's the love of a God beside God-self with love for us. Who can't help loving us. A tender, passionate, extravagant & powerful love. A love revealed in a Savior willing to suffer and die for us. Revealed by his invitation to call God, "Abba."

18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

None of this—chosen, holy, beloved–depends on us. It all depends on Another.

We're chosen. By Another.

We're holy. We belong to Another.

We're beloved. Dearly loved by Another.

That's what God is asking us to believe and trust — that we are chosen, holy, beloved. And when we can embrace these things and know that we know that we know, we will believe we belong to God. Just as my son knows that I love him. He knows he belongs. Why does he know this? Because every day I say,

"Guess what, Son?"

When he answers, "What?"

I say, "I love you."

Often he will say, "I knew you were going to say that."

I say, "How do you know?"

In reply, he offers, "Because you always say that."

And I say, "But do you believe it?"

"Yes, because you tell me everyday, and you do things with me, and you talk to me, and you're here for me."

And that is what God wants to hear. He wants to say, "Guess what? I love you!" And because you know you belong to him, you say, "I know, you always say that." And you believe it because you belong to him.

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