Coherence: Who are you?

Listen to the podcast of this sermon:

Luke 4:14-21

Imagine an alien landed in Columbus, Ohio and looked around. That alien would think,newsEngin_18246638_road-construction “these people really like orange barrels”.

It is hard to go any where around Columbus and not find construction. Whether you are driving or riding the bus, you can see that Columbus is one giant construction zone.

The seemingly endless construction is a reminder that we live in an ever changing world.

From the year 2,000 to 2,004 our family lived in England. Noah, our oldest son was born there, and we lived in a small village north of Cambridge called Ely. We bought an antique map of Ely from the 17th Century and the roads on this map are the same as they are today. It would be awkward to carry this around, but you can go to Ely today and navigate the streets using this 400 year old map. In Columbus, if you used a navigation system from 10 years ago you might be in trouble.

Think of the changes to our community in recent years.

Schottenstein department store was a fixture on the South Side for 90 years and now seems like a distant memory.

City Center Mall has given the way to the Columbus Commons.

And here on Parsons Avenue, in recent years we have seen a new library, a new fire station, new businesses, and now a freshly paved road.

Change is all around us.

In many ways, change is a good thing. Look around our neighborhood. Abandoned and blighted homes were once common and now are difficult to find. Look around this room. A church like this where people of different races and classes come together to worship would have been very unlikely fifty years ago.

But while change is often a good thing, change can also be uncomfortable.

When change happens in our lives we can feel out of control. The changing world around us can feel like a big, daunting, scary place that we have no control over and that is happening to us.

And even within our own lives it only takes one illness, the loss of one job, one heater to go out in our homes, and the foundation under our feet is shaken.

In order for us to live full, abundant lives in Jesus Christ we have to be able to have the confidence that God is with us in all things, that there is a bigger plan at work, we have to know who we are and whose we are.

The word for this security and confidence is coherence.coherence-1

Coherence is the second leading cause of life. Last week Sheldon Johnson introduced us to the first cause of life, connection. Connection is vital for us as we are made to live in community with one another. But real connection cannot happen without coherence.

Coherence is the narrative that keeps us on track because it orders our lives. Coherence gives us a sense of belonging and meaning.

Without coherence, we are merely trying to survive the storms of life that come at us. We are tossed about and living in reaction to everyone and everything else. With coherence, we can do more than survive, we can thrive.

So how do we build coherence so we can Come Alive?

Coherence begins with knowing who we are and being true to ourselves.

If you have met someone who has a strong sense of identity, who is comfortable in their own skin, who knows who they are in the world, that is what coherence looks like.

Jesus was a person who had a strong sense of coherence. He know who he was, what he came to do, what his purpose was in life, and that guided everything that he did.

In our scripture today we hear the story of Jesus’ homecoming.

This is from Luke, Chapter 4, it is early in Jesus ministry. Word spread about him, people are beginning to talk. He is becoming known for his teaching. To put it in modern terms, Jesus just went viral.

While he seems to be popular all around Galilee, sometimes the hometown crowd is the most difficult.

It is the Sabbath and Jesus is an observant Jew. So he goes to the synagogue like he had in many cities around Galilee. He stands up to read and a scroll is handed to him. Jesus unrolls the scroll to what we know as Isaiah, Chapter 61 and he says The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me… Jesus is the spirit-filled anointed, chosen one of God.

He goes on to say that he has come:

       to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

This is Jesus’ message of identity and coherence. Jesus not only says this is who I am, but he lives it out. A person with a high sense of coherence not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.

To know who you are and have your actions be consistent with your identity does not mean you will be popular. By calling himself the anointed one, reading this scripture from Isaiah, and saying today this has been fulfilled in your hearing, is to claim to be the Messiah. Jesus is saying, I am the Messiah. That is his identity. But the people of his hometown are not buying it. In fact, the people of Nazareth are scandalized. They ask who is this that claims to be the anointed one? Who does he think he is? We know him, we watched him grow up, he is no Messiah, he is Joseph’s son.

Jesus responds to this criticism and says “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.”

Sometimes the people that are the hardest for us to be our most authentic around are the people who have known us the longest. The ones who remember us when…

Yet Jesus is not deterred by this criticism or the criticism he will continue to face from religious leaders throughout his ministry. Even in front of Pontius Pilate and even on the cross, Jesus does not waver because he has a strong sense of who he is.

It is important for us to have the same. If we know who we are and operate from that identity, we may not always be popular. As disciples of Jesus Christ we will not always do what the rest of the crowd is doing, we won’t always speak like the rest of the world around us is speaking. But if we are secure in who we are, we won’t be deterred when we are criticized.

It is important that we have a clear sense of who we are so we can be fully alive. And yet, our coherence is not grounded in us, but in God.

Coherence is not just a matter of who we are, but also whose we are.

We can have security that we will overcome, we will make it up the rough side of the mountain, not because of who we are but because of who God is.

This message of coherence is sung every time Paul sings “He’s Sweet, I Know”

He’s sweet, I know, He’s sweet, I know,
Storm clouds may rise, strong winds may blow.
I’ll tell the world wherever I go,
That I’ve found a Savior, and he’s sweet, I know.

No matter how hard the storms or how strong the winds, we know that God is with us.

It is who Jesus came to be.

In the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew Jesus is described by the angel of the Lord as Emmanuel, God with us. In the last chapter of Matthew, the very last words that Jesus speaks are:‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*

This is who God is. A God who is with us in all things, at all time, and in all places. A God who understands our struggles, because God experienced them in Jesus Christ. A God who will never abandon us or forsake us

In Hebrews 13, two Psalms are quoted when the writer says, “‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ 6So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’

We knows these words are true not only because we read them in the Bible, but because we have experienced them in our lives?

How many times have you seen God make a way out of no way?

How many times have you witnessed answered prayers?

How many times have you looked around when others abandoned you and God was still right there?

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not height or depth or life or depth. When we know that not just with our heads but at the core of our being, we have confidence, surety, and coherence.Romans-8-38-39Our sense of belonging begins with knowing who we are, is rooted in who God is, and comes together when we have a clear sense of purpose in our lives.

When we combine who we are and who God is with why we are here, then we are setting ourselves us to come alive.

If we go back to this morning’s scripture, Jesus had a very clear sense of why he was here, what he was anointed to do: to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 Everything that Jesus did lines up with this statement. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus released people whose lives had been captive to years of sickness, gave sight to the blind, living water to a Samaritan woman.

Not only did Jesus actions line up with his mission statement, he didn’t do anything inconsistent with what he came to do. A mission statement both tells us what we are going to do and what we are not.

The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”. Disciple making and transformation are the business that we are in. That is what we are called to do. We grow in grace within ourselves so we can bring transformation to the world around us.

The vision of Church and Community Development for All People is to build a “whole, healthy, and engaged community” so that ALL people can come alive.

Coherence is built by having a clear sense of who we are, whose we are, and what we do.

Perhaps it is in this third area that we have the greatest opportunity to engage as we talk about Come Alive. For who we are remains fairly constant, who God is doesn’t change, but what we are called to do changes throughout the seasons of our lives.

As we go to school, work, retire, the things we do change.

Twenty years ago I would not have imagined being a pastor, ten years ago I would not have imagined living in Ohio, but here I am. There is no other place where I have felt more connected to what God is doing and no place where I have been more fully alive.

So I want to invite you to take a fresh look at the questions around Come Alive and ask yourself what God might be calling you to do next? At this season in your life, what opportunities do you have to discover who you are, whose you are, and what God has called you to do?

And if you don’t know the answers to those questions, if they sound way too big, that is okay too. That is why John and Donita and all of us are here, to accompany each other in to a full life.

Let us not live in fear of the change that surrounds, but let us go from here knowing that we are the children of God, who is with us always, and who has called us to share the gifts of grace we have received with everyone we meet, so that the world will be transformed and come alive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s