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Be Who You Are and Say What You Feel

If you were here last weekend in worship we heard Pastor Brad read the beginning of the story of Joseph from Genesis. We left Joseph as he is being sold into slavery by his brothers after one of the 11 have convinced the others not to murder him and a lot has happened to Joseph since then. Before I read our scripture, I think it is important for us to understand what has happened to Joseph in the “in between time”.

One of the ways we do this in our classrooms and ministries here at church with our children is we show a video that is able to help them connect the dots so they have background to the story. I want to show you this video as a quick catch up with Joseph before we hear more from the word of God. Take a look.

(Video)

Now hear these words from the book of Genesis, Chapter 45 verse 1 through 15, as we finish the story of Joseph.

(Read Scripture)

A Word of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and mediations on the hearts of us all be pleasing to you our heavenly father.

Amen

When Pastor Jenny first told us she was going on renewal leave there was lots of planning for how worship would go in her absence. The original plan was that I was going to share with you last week. I was so excited. Joseph and the coat of colors is one of my favorite stories to teach kids here at church. I had started planning and praying about what that worship service would look like. Then I went on vacation for 10 days and when I came home the plan had changed.

I quickly met with Pastor Jenny to talk about what worship would look like and decide on the scripture you just heard as my text. Then I put all this away and got to work on the other parts of my job. Two days later I got an email saying I needed to submit a sermon title to go with this scripture. I quickly reread the text, typed the first thing that came to mind, Be Who You Are And Say What You Feel, and hit send on the email.

Later that night as I was tucking my own kiddos into bed it dawned on me that this quote was not an Amanda original. I went to the computer and typed it in and a bunch of images like this one appeared on the screen in front of me.

(Slide with Quote I sent to Nancy)

Nope that is not mine at all. There is a reason that popped into my head. Good old Dr. Seuss.

I have to say I am a Seuss fan. We often have Dr. Seuss night here during our Wednesday night LOGOS ministry and I have been on family retreats that are focused on the writings of Dr. Seuss. I even have a book back at my desk called The Gospels According to Dr. Seuss.

I think it is easy for us to draw parallels between the overall messages in Dr. Seuss’s writings and the scriptures and messages we hear from God. In fact, the more I read this quote and the more I revisited the text the easier it was for me to see the reasons this is what popped into my head. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”

Jospeh does all of this in our old testament text today. He just doesn’t do it in the same order as this quote. He starts right there in the middle with the line “those that mind don’t matter.” Our Genesis text tell us that the first thing Joseph does when he is ready to share is kick the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s staff out of the room. Joseph is aware of their perceptions of him as a leader. He might have feared and worried that if they knew the real him it will lead to trouble. He also might have had the fear of simply being judged for growing up poor with a huge family.

Once the people who might mind are out of the room Joseph is able to be himself. He rejoices that he is able to reveal his true identity to his brothers. For the first time since Joseph was a teenager sold into slavery he can be the boy with the colorful coat. Isn’t it true for most of us that we are our true selves when we are near our family? We see this in our children all the time. I don’t know about you but my own children are sweet angels at school or for other adults and not that way for me. When parents and adults ask me why that is I tell them it’s because your child feels the safest and most loved when they are with you. It’s okay for them to make mistakes because they know you will love them. Joseph is with his family and for the first time in a long time he is able to be himself. These are the people who matter and he knows they won’t mind.

It is amazing what happens in our text when all these pieces come together, being yourself and surrounding yourself with the people who don’t mind. We read that as Joseph shares forgiveness and love with his brothers he weeps. See he is truly able to say what he feels.

Are you seeing it? “Be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”

Someone once asked me what my philosophy or vision was for our children’s ministries here at Sun Prairie United Methodist Church and I was pretty honest when I said I am not sure. I often tell those who serve in my ministries or on teams with me the first thing I do is use my mommy brain and the rest seems to fall into place.

But as I began to connect the dots between the this quote and our scripture I began to see this is what we really are trying to do here with our children.

This church has been and continues to be a safe place where kids can be their true selves. It is also a place where we give kids the space to try to figure out who their true selves are. We let kids try music, try public speaking, try mission work, try volunteering within our church, try teaching. We let kids try. And when they are able to try without the fear of failure or disappointment they are able to discern and discover how God has created them and who God has called them to be.

Whether kids are involved in weekend church school, summer vacation bible school, or Wednesday night LOGOS ministry they are given the chance to say what they feel. Last year I had the privilege of working with our 5th graders at LOGOS during their worship skills time. We started each week with highs and lows which is similar to sharing our joys and concerns. Sometimes the information the kids would share is what I would call base level sharing. “My high today is I didn’t have math homework.” “My low today is I am not getting enough time to play video games.”

But as the year progressed and we felt more comfortable with each other, in a room without judgement, we began to chat about deeper issues. First loves and first break ups, dealing with bullying, having a hard time getting along with a friend, death, fighting with parents. You get the idea. This was honest conversations where both the kids and adults in this room were open to hearing and sharing what they felt. I think these vulnerable conversations may have been the best thing God could have had happen in our time together. Better than anything I could have taught from a church curriculum.

We are able to do all this because of the adults who don’t mind. We have between 50 and 100 volunteers who help make our children and family ministries happen in the life of this church. We have teachers who sit in classrooms, volunteers who cook us dinner, adults who come in on Wednesday nights and play games with us at rec. There are volunteers who work behind the scenes creating VBS decorations, tracking attendance, stuffing envelopes, cutting out name tags.

This doesn’t include those of you who I know pray for our kids each week. This may be one of the most important gifts of all.

See all of this is creating a space for these kiddos to be who they are and say what they feel.

The truth is my Philosophy for children’s ministry doesn’t just come from my mommy brain. It comes from my 12 year old self. See I was a kid who grew up in church. My dad worked with our youth group from the time I started preschool and my mom taught Sunday School and served on a number of youth and education teams in our church. We worshipped regularly for my elementary years in a church in Shelbyville, KY. It was safe to say I knew a lot about God.

When I was in 6th grade I got to go to confirmation, which is a process of discernment youth in the church participate in to know if they want to know God on their own and participate in the life of the church. I started attend class with my peers that fall and got kicked out of confirmation.

When I tell this story people really begin to think about what naughty thing I must have done at age 12 to not be allowed to participate in this faith formation experience but the truth is I got kicked out of confirmation for being myself.

The pastor had us do this workbook and each week at dinner, because I knew a lot about God, I would help my friends fill in all the answers correctly. When we got to class the pastor would check our workbooks and since we all had the right answers he didn’t know what to do with us. We got to spend 30-45 minutes each week making paper airplanes.

At Christmas time the pastor called my parents in and told them I knew everything I need to know, I was undermining his authority, and I did not need to come back to class. He would just confirm me with the others. Which to 12 year old me sound awesome. No More Class at Church!

But it wasn’t awesome at all. When we came back second semester after dinner everyone would go to their classes in other parts of the building including the adults and I was left to sit in fellowship hall for two hours and do homework or read a book. I felt like I was being punished for being myself.

What that Pastor should have done is asked me his “Did I know God?” See there is a difference between knowing a lot about God and knowing and having a relationship with God.

During my middle and high school years God would place a lot of adults in my life who would mattered. Who would ask me and check in with me to make sure I still knew God. These adults would praise my for my gifts of knowledge and challenge me to learn more. These were the adults that mattered.

I know this church is a space where this happening for our children, youth, and adults each day.

My hope is that each time you are here you will be able to be like Joseph. You will be yourself and share what you feel knowing this is a community of those that matter because they will love you for you no matter what.

Amen