“Enough: You Are Enough”
September 17, 2023
Mark 1: 1, 9-13
Today we begin a three-week sermon series called “Enough.”
Next week we’ll address vocation with a sermon called “You Do Enough.”
The week after that we’ll examine mission and outreach with a sermon called “Enough is Enough!”
Today, we consider the truth we celebrate with each and every baptism. It’s a truth that we must recite again and again because it is one of the most difficult ones to trust – that “You ARE Enough.”
This week I put a question out on social media – I asked people to share some of the most hurtful things anybody has ever said to them – the words spoken to you that made you feel like you are NOT enough – and I also asked how old the person was when those words were spoken to them.
I had this hypothesis – that those critical, hurtful words stick…they sear their way into our hearts and souls and they never really do leave. It’s a terrible tape that just loops in your head and heart.
Judging by the flood of responses I received – some posted publicly, A LOT more messaged to me privately – I would say that hypothesis checks out. The messages we internalize can stick with us for years and even decades.
As we begin today, I have invited
(8:30 – Katy and Davey Sanford)
(11:00) – David and Davidson Smithwick
to share a sample of these hurtful words, the name of the one who received them and how old they were when they did.
David: “CO-Valedictorian? Why didn’t you earn the entire honor yourself?”
Jenny, age 18
Davidson: “There are only six people in our club and you would make seven”
Claudia, age 9
David: “I’m confident that you’ll never do anything to benefit me.”
Carol, age 27
Davidson: “We don’t want her playing with us.”
Joann, age 12
David: “Short men never really accomplish anything”
Roy, age 31
Davidson: “Don’t vote for her, she’s boring.”
Shailey, age 11
David: “you’re the most discouraging student I’ve had in 30 years of teaching.”
Merri, age 20
Davidson: “What was that? I thought you were going to be good.”
Hannah, age 11
David: “You’re only here because you must have been an affirmative action kid”
DOCTOR Omid Safi, Duke University, age 18
Davidson: “She’s probably not cut out for college.”
Catherine, age 8
David: “You are a second rate kid with a first rate Father.”
Elizabeth, age 23
Davidson: “Be a man…don’t let them see you cry.”
Daniel, age 8
David: “the 8 year old girl down the street is handling her cancer better than you’re handling this
Heidi, age 30
Davidson: “Do you think that you could find me a piece of chalk without stuttering?”
Sophie, age 13
David: “You will never amount to anything – God put you on this earth for people to laugh at.”
Becca, age 24.
Jarrett: The grass withers, the flower fades – but words like these sting for a very long time.
How is anybody supposed to know their worth when we say things like this to each other?
When teachers say things like this to their students?
When parents say things like this to their children?
When partners say things like this to one another?
And – What in the world can the church say to bring some balance to those scales;
Especially when they are so tipped in the direction of the critical…the spiteful…and the hurtful?
A reading from the Gospel of Mark, chapter one:
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.
Song of Preparation (11:00 only) – Be Still, For the Presence of the Lord
Will you pray with me?
Lord, open our ears to the words you whisper to us, but not just our ears but our hearts as well, that we might internalize your message of love and trust it all the way down to our very bones. Amen.
Have you heard of these “Overheard” pages on Instagram?
Essentially, they are digital monuments to eavesdropping – a collection of random quotes overheard in certain, significant locales – there’s Overheard-New York City, Overheard – Cleveland. There’s actually an Overheard-UNC, so have fun checking that one out.
(Not now, but later.)
The trend started in 2015 when Jesse Margolis created the Overheard LA account as a place to collect the weirdest things he caught from other peoples’ conversations.
He overheard a Father saying to his kid: “Sugar is addictive. Those Girl Scouts are just adorable drug dealers.”
Or an 8-year old saying to his Mom: “Can you please be a little nicer to me. This is my first pandemic.”
At the LAX airport he heard over the loud speaker: “Would a dog by the name of Ray please report to gate 2. Your owner is waiting for you at gate 2. A dog by the name of Ray.”
But this was my favorite: “He’s 31 years old, but like, North Carolina-31, like 2 kids and a mortgage. 31-year-old guys in LA are just learning how to cook chicken.”
I’m glad to know that in sunny California, North Carolina is known for generating men capable of cooking for themselves by the time they turn 30. Take the wins where you get them.
It is not surprising that something like this came into being.
Eavesdropping is just too interesting.
For just one moment – you get dropped right into the middle of somebody else’s conversation. You don’t know how the conversation got there. You don’t know where the conversation is going. You just get that one tiny piece of the puzzle and you’re left to reconstruct the rest.
I don’t know about you, but it was pretty difficult listening to Katie and Davey / David and Davidson recite all of those hurtful statements.
We don’t know how the conversation got there.
We can probably imagine the places of deep hurt and shattered confidence that they led to.
It’s a puzzle I’d rather not finish.
I suspect the final picture is pretty painful.
Listening to them got me wondering:
Can we ever fully appreciate the power of our words;
How they – in the words of our Confession today – can both bless and deeply (I’d take out deeply here so you can get the alliteration) bruise another person?
I wonder if the one who said those things has any clue how deeply they cut? How much those words sank into the soul of the one who received them and shook them down to the core.
The baptism of Jesus is narrated by all four Gospels, but Mark – the version we read this morning – is the most succinct.
Mark sparingly narrates Jesus going out to meet John at the Jordan River. He’s baptized and then Jesus sees the heavens torn apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Finally, we overhear this tiny snatch of a conversation between Jesus and God – a voice from heaven saying to him, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
That’s the only part that we hear – but for this one moment we get to eavesdrop on this beautiful moment between Parent and Child, hearing words of affirmation and adoration. Unlike all the mean-spirited messages we collect in this life, in this moment we overhear a message of pure love; the words we all long to hear – You Are Enough, just the way you are.
It might be worth noting here that God offers these words of affirmation at the very beginning of the story, before Jesus even has a chance to prove himself in any way whatsoever.
That feels intentional – a reminder that God’s love is not conditional.
It’s not predicated on one’s performance.
It’s not contingent on some set of measurable successes.
It’s a gift given with no strings attached, no expectations to meet.
But no sooner has Jesus drip-dried on the banks of the Jordan than that sweet dove of a Spirit snatches him up and drives him out into the wilderness where, Mark tells us, he is tempted by Satan.
Let’s talk about Satan.
When you hear “Satan” and “temptation,” the popular imagination goes to the Devil offering all manner of pleasures and delights in exchange for one’s soul.
I don’t believe that is what we’re looking at here.
In Greek – the Shaitan means the accuser or the adversary.
Matthew and Luke will tell a similar, though more detailed, version of this story – but they will use the word “Devil” – Diabolos – which literally means “the one who throws things around.”
Whoever or whatever this power might be, it’s not tempting Jesus with pleasures and delights, it’s lying to him about who he is and what he’s really worth.
At the moment of his baptism, God says to Jesus “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
Immediately, there are voices telling him otherwise.
It’s easy to project all of that tearing down onto some demonic figure, but as (Katie and Davey) – (David and Davidson) reminded us, we don’t need a Devil or Satan to tell us we are not enough. We’re perfectly proficient at doing that ourselves.
That’s why Baptism is such a crucial part of the Church’s life – and not just for the one being baptized. When we baptize someone – whether a baby-in-arms, a squirmy toddler, or a full-grown person – we are all remembering and reciting a truth that is so hard to trust – that you are enough.
We eavesdrop on that conversation between God and Jesus and realize that God has been whispering the same thing to us all along: “You are my daughter, the beloved, with you I am well pleased…you are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” There is nothing you’ve done, there is nothing you will ever do, that will change that. Nothing.
A couple decades ago, Sue Monk Kidd published the novel The Secret Life of Bees.
I bet more than a few of you read it.
It’s a story about Lily, a 13 year old girl who lives with a couple of heavy burdens.
For starters, her father T. Ray is abusive, both verbally and physically.
Lily also lives with a heavy burden – that as a toddler she was responsible for her mother’s death.
Her father never wastes an opportunity to remind her of this fact.
Lily believes herself to be unforgivable and unlovable.
In the summer of 1964, she runs away with her nanny Rosaleen clutching the only relic she has of her mother’s past – a photo of a Black Madonna statue with the words, “Tiburon, SC” on the back.
Upon arriving in Tiburon, they recognize the black Madonna on a jar of honey and trace it to three sisters named May, June and August who take them in.
Sitting in the living room of their very pink house, Lily sees the carving of the Black Mother Mary, obviously removed from an old sailing ship. This is what she experiences in the presence of this statue:
She had a faded red heart painted on her breast and a yellow crescent moon, worn down and crooked, painted where her body would have blended into the ship’s wood. A candle inside a tall red glass threw glimmers across her body.
She was a mix of mighty and humble all in one. I didn’t know what to think, but what I felt was magnetic and so big it ached like the moon had entered my chest and filled it up…
The lips on the statue had a beautiful, bossy half smile, the sight of which caused me to move both my hands up to my throat. Everything about that smile said, Lily Owens, I know you down to the core.
I felt she knew what a lying, murdering, hating person I really was. How I hated T. Ray, and the girls at school, but mostly myself for taking away my mother.
I wanted to cry, but then, in the next instant, I wanted to laugh, because the statue also made me feel like Lily the Smiled-Upon, like there was goodness and beauty in me, too. Like I really had all that fine potential that my teacher said I did.
“Lily Owens, I know you down to the core.”
That’s what God says to us:
8:30 – “Davey Sanford, I know you down to the core.”
11:00 – “Henry Porter, I know you by name.”
“You are my son…you are my daughter, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
“You are Enough.”
I know that it’s highly unlikely that UPC would ever have an Overheard webpage spring up for the snatches of conversation heard in the spaces we live our faith out there, but what if there were one. I wonder what would get posted on there.
I pray that it would be filled with messages of encouragement; messages that build up; messages that remind every one of God’s children what they are truly worth; that you are enough.
Overhear those words, Church, but don’t just post them on some webpage.
Say them out loud to the ones who need to hear them.
Recite them to yourself, to our children and to one another.
Say them so loud that the whole world can’t help but overhear.
Say them until they’re written on our hearts now and forever. Amen.