I AM who I AM (sermon) August 31, 2014

Sermon – August 31, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 17) Track 1

God said to Moses, “I AM Who I AM.” Exodus 3:14

Please be seated.

I know you’ve heard me talk about my mother’s parents, who lived in upstate New York.  Fulton was the name of the town.  We’d go there every summer, often one way by bus.  It was a very long ride before Interstate 81 was built.  But I’d be so excited about seeing my grandparents, that I would hardly sleep the night before.

Now in those days, we weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day, unless you were sick.  Oh, maybe Captain Kangaroo in the morning, but that was it.  TV watching began at about 5pm and there were always cartoons on.  At my grandparents’ house, Popeye cartoons came on in the afternoon.  I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, the cartoons would start with a very distinctive song, ending with a Toot!  The song was from the 1930s and includes the lines:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I yam what’s I yam,

And that’s all what’s I am.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

Today, we here God tell Moses, I AM who I AM.  I’m not meaning to imply that God is Popeye.  But to look at the simplicity and truth in this statement made to Moses.  Who are you in the burning bush, God?  Who are you, talking to me and asking me to challenge all-powerful Pharoah?  Who are you asking me to lead the Israelites out of bondage?  Who are you speaking the vision of the promised land?  What is your name?  What god are you?

Remember, the beliefs were that there were many gods, so Moses is asking, which one are you?  The people will want to know.  And God simply says, I AM who I AM.  God is who God is, nothing more, nothing less…God is.

This past week, I spent two days in staff training with the rest of the Diocesan staff.  As you know, some of the staff have been in the Diocese and working for the Diocese for 20 years or more.  And some, like me, are very new.  We needed to come together, get to know each other better and work out how we will work together and how we can best serve the Diocese.

Bishop Hahn led much of the first day.  He used the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  Mr. Rath and Donald Clifton were tired of hearing about what was wrong with people.  They’d also discovered that “people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”  (p. i).

Using the Gallup organization’s 40-year study of human strengths, Mr. Rath and Mr. Clifton came up with 34 of the most common strengths people possess.  Strengths Finder includes these.  You get a code in the book, which allows you to go online and take a test, which then gives you your top five strengths.  The book explains each strength, gives some examples, lists ideas for actions you can take to best use this strength, and lists some ideas for how to work with others who have this strength.

Each of us on staff did this online assessment and sent the results to Bishop Hahn.  At the training, we did various things with the information.  One of the things we did in a small group was to figure out who should be part of a team to solve an issue.  We were asked to consider what strengths would be helpful in that scenario and who we’d choose amongst the staff to address that problem.

In many ways, throughout the first day, we were affirming the “I am who I am.”  For just as God is who God is, so we, made in God’s image, are who we are.  We are who we are….

Now, we could use this as an excuse for all sorts of bad behavior, saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.”  But I don’t think that’s what God wants for us.  I think God wants us to be just who we are…to know who we are.  To bring our best, to bring our God-given strengths into the world.  None of us is God.  None of us has all 34 strengths identified by Mr. Rath and Mr. Clifton as our top five.  We do need each other.

We need each other and our different strengths, our differing strengths, in order to accomplish God’s work.

One of the projects that emerged from the 2-day training is to look at our jobs and see if we are in the right place.  Do our strengths match the tasks we are assigned to do?

And that’s what God is asking us to do.  To look clearly at ourselves.  To know the strengths and talents God has given us.  To align our lives with those strengths and talents, so we can do God’s work.  And so we can also know our limitations and our need for each other.

And so we can be ready to see the burning bush…to stand on holy ground…to hear God speaking to us…to be sent to Pharoah…and to free ourselves and each other.









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