July 31, 2022
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
Has your opinion about something changed when you learned more about it or them? Let
me put it this way. Nicole and I were just about on the last leg of our
honeymoon. We’ve told a few of those stories, but it was 28 days so it’s hard to tell it all
in one sermon.
But we had a few days left and we were in Monaco at this point. The weather we
nice. We could see all of the boats docked by the sea. The scenery was perfect. We just
wanted a relaxing day so we found a restaurant with an extremely long line and
committed to spending a good amount of time at this place. It easily took us an hour to
stand in line and order our food.
Now, I couldn’t read the menu so ordered something I thought was safe. I ordered what I
could read. So I ordered the tripe. The presentation was exquisite. The vegetables
looked so delicious. I was ready to try it. Had fork in hand and napkin on my lap. I’m in
another country why not try the tripe?!
But I made a mistake. I didn’t know what tripe was, so I was curious! I figured I’d at
least look it up before I took a bite. What harm could it do?! Pulled out my phone. All I
remember was reading was “inside lining of stomach”. I said, “Nope!” Absolutely not.
I was fine until I knew. Once I knew I couldn’t unsee it. I was fine until I knew. Once I
knew I lost my appetite. But isn’t that the risk of knowing? It’s accepting that people can
change their minds if they know.
Hints to our fears of being known. It’s the fear that if people really knew the truth. If
people really knew what we were made of. If they knew not just what we showed to
them, but if they knew. If they knew, they might lose their appetite.
Which makes our song or psalm for this week even more confusing, and challenging,
and needed. It describes our deepest fear and our deepest need. Last week could very
well be a part 1 to this message because it was written by David so we have to filter the
lyrics through his context. We looked at David’s lyrics to psalm 51 where he pleaded
with God to have a clean heart in light of a terrible scandal that he courageously owned
I could understand if David wanted to file that away as a don’t ask, don’t tell rule in his
life. I get it. We’ve all been there. There are things that we want people to know and
there’s others that we would rather not share with anyone. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Everyone has something to hide (slide). Everyone has things in their lives they wound
rather not share. It’s off limits in public conversation. I have tons of things that I will
divulge while I’m preaching, but there are certain things that I can’t give everybody
access to. Too personal. Too raw. Too embarrassing. Too shameful. I wouldn’t want
you to lose your appetite. And our desire to be close to people is often revealed in our
ability to let them into these hidden places.
That’s why verse 1 hits so hard. David acknowledges that in his relationship with God he
is searched and known. Intimacy with God is invasive! He’s describing a God that
actively searches through his history, his thoughts, and his life. In fact, the word that’s
used for search means “to dig.” That just doesn’t sound right.
But listen to David describes it. “You perceive my thoughts from afar…You are familiar
with all my ways…. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.
There are some things that we want to remain private even from God
That’s an illegal search! You need permission to search private places. Any judge or
lawyer in here will agree. Search Warrants. A search warrant is a warrant signed by a
judge or magistrate authorizing a law enforcement officer to conduct a search on a certain
person, a specified place, or an automobile for criminal evidence.
A search warrant is designed to protect individuals’ reasonable expectation of privacy
Faith brings me to this question. Am I willing to invite God into these difficult
areas? Will I give God permission to search? To dig around? I am comfortable with
a God that wants to bless me, not a God that wants to search me. I love a God that is
gracious, and kind, and loving but not one wants to dig into the dark places of our lives.
There are some places that we would rather not have God search. It’s closing off the
rooms in our house we don’t want God to see. The search warrant does not cover this
area of our lives.
Why? Because those are the ones that we want hidden. Dark places. Difficult
places. Secret Places. The places where the skeletons are buried. This is what sets our
faith apart. It describes a God that is not interested in blessings us, healing us, providing
for us. But a God that’s desperately wants to know us.
David’s lyrics remind us of this important detail. God can handle what we desperately
want to hide. (Slide) Gods appetite or desire to be in relationship with us does not
diminish the more God continues to dig. David reveals to us that God relentlessly
pursues us not out of ignorance, but because God knows us.
David sheds light on this omnipresent God that has been with him at every phase and
juncture if his life. He has come to the conclusion that there is not a place he can go or
hide and Gods presence will not be there. Nothing that David has experienced has
worked at repelling the presence of God.
This is not an isolated event. It’s a consistent characteristic that we see between God and
humanity. It’s a continuous pursuit. It God pursuing someone like Paul as he was in his
way to kill Christians. It’s in God leaving the 99 to purse 1. It’s the story of the prodigal
son. Its the story of God pursuing Moses and so him by a burning bush. It’s a story of
God continued pursuit not to punish, but to call, embrace, love, empower, and send. You
see God digging through all kinds of unimaginable mess and it never hinders the pursuit
of God. Why? Because God can handle what we desperately want to hide.
But here’s the real question. God can handle it, but can we? Can we handle what we
know about ourselves? (slide) Let me show you one the most dangerous weapons
when it comes to our faith. This weapon with either hurt you or heal you. When it hurts,
it hurt is! When it heals, it heals! Some people take full advantage of it. I think it is a
blessing. It helps us handle our relationships better. I think it helps is deal with God
better. I think every Christian should use this at least once everyday.
(Show the mirror)
With this you have to be careful. Because we might see the truth. If we look hard
enough and dig. We might see the truth!
Mirrors will so three things.
1. Gives us an accurate picture of who we are. It allows us to be active observers to
our own identity. We dig underneath who we think we are. We did underneath the
surface. We dig underneath our jobs and we see us.
2. We see what others see, not what we think we see. Because so sometimes what
we think we see is not what others see. We create a version of ourselves that only
exist in our minds. A d yet the mirror helps us to see what others sees
3. Leave us you with a decision. You have to decide each time to accept what you
see or not.
David is aware that God knows everything about him. David knows there’s nothing he
can hide from God. He knows this! He knows where God digs. He knows where God
has searched. And he comes to this conclusion.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”
Is David delusional?! One must wonder, is David looking over the fact that he’s been
caught in a humiliating scandal. Has he forgotten that he was once a fugitive. Has he
forgotten that he tried to fight on the side of enemy? He wasn’t always a great leader.
He often failed as a parent? Is he glossing over the times he lost in battle? Maybe he
forgot when his men almost turned on him. Maybe he is leaving out the fact this one is
own kids trying to take overthrow his kingdom.
David self affirmation is not arrogance, it’s acceptance. It’s embracing what comes up
after he is finished digging. One of the difficult journeys of faith is not believing in
God. It’s believing what God believes in you. (Slide) It’s seeing what’s under the
hood and still buying into the truth that Gods love is still unconditional. That’s hard! But
what’s what’s necessary. We have to be able to handle what we find and who find. And
embrace them! Let me ask this again, Can we handle what we know about ourselves?
Im in this research project with a few other Pastors where we are trying to determine as
best as we can, what is compelling preaching after Covid. So we look at different
preachers throughout the nation. We talk about preaching. We analyze preaching. We
try find common themes or threads.
Here are some observations we made. We noticed they came from a wide variety
of denominations. They came from a wide range cultural backgrounds. Some where
Pastors, some were not. Some were Seminary trained, some weren’t. Some were from
the academy. Some used manuscripts. Others preached from memory. Some used
outlines. There were so many variables.
But we were trying to find the things they all had in common. One of the things they all
had without a doubt that was undeniable was this…... Every name we looked at were
people we described as authentic. They were people that owned who they were. They
owned their style. They owned their voice. They embraced who they were. Their
personalities were a part of them living out their call. They were fully able to live out
their call when they fully embraced not what they were but who they were.
This is not about preaching! It’s about the capacity to see beauty in Gods creation even
when it’s staring back at us. It’s about the permission “to be”. David affirmation’s about
his identity is not tied to him being King or defeating Giants, defeating thousands.
It’s not embracing David the the King or David the To find what makes us..us. To own
our voices. To embrace all of our experiences. To uncover us in the grace of God and
stare back at it. It’s is giving ourselves the permission to be.
This is in no way to idolize the self. We have enough of that already in our culture. It’s
to embrace ourselves. It’s is to love ourselves. Here’s why it’s important. You may
disagree with this, but I’ve seen a pattern. How I view myself directly impacts how I
view God and how I believe God views me.
There is often a direct correlation. Some people have to bear the burden of trying to love
God while hating themselves. Some people struggle with embracing a loving God, when
they have not been given the space to truly love themselves. We've been teaching
people to Love God but hate themselves…. As if that really possible.
I am not convinced that we can have a healthy relationship with God and not have a
healthy relationship with this person who stares back. Accepting the person we see in
here, lends itself to accepting our identity in God. There are so many people that feel
disconnected to God because so much of what they hear, see, and experience makes them
question if this person they see if fearfully and wonderfully made.
If David doesn’t believe he is fearfully and wonderfully made by God no ones else
will. I think he gets to place where he is just embracing all of who he is. Not as a way of
denying a need to improve, but an affirmation of what truly makes him David.
I want to close with a music. This is definitely a song you need on your playlist. Now I’m
not recommending this is a best way to close a sermon but it is this today. It’s a song
from the greatest showman entitled, “This is me.” Listen to some of the lyrics.
I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one'll love you as you are
But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown 'em out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
In the video, it’s a live recording and the lead singer would always sing behind the
podium. They said it was almost like she was hiding. but the one day she stepped out in
front. The moment she stopped hiding, something really amazing happened.