Who Am I?

The following sermon was preached at the Closing Divine Service for the 2024 Higher Things Conference in Mequon, Wisconsin: "Who Am I?" (June 28, 2024)

Text: Mark 8:27-35

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

You’re a loser. 

You’re a weirdo.

You’re a weak nerd.

You’re lame. 

You’re fat. 

You’re ugly.

You’re a slut.

You’re a freak. 

You’re a stupid blonde. 

You’re a soyboy.

You’re an idiot. 

You’re retarded.

You’re a creep. 

These are just some of the things that can be said to you in this often-cruel world.  

Are they mean?  You bet.  

Are they inappropriate to say?  Absolutely. 

Do they hurt?  Yes, they do.  

People will often try to offset these hurtful labels, though, by telling you that you are:

Not a loser, but brave. 

Not a weirdo, but creative.

Not a weak nerd, but intelligent. 

Not lame, but amazing. 

Not fat, but inspiring. 

Not ugly, but beautiful. 

Not a slut, but valuable. 

  Not a freak, but unique.

Not a stupid blonde, but resilient. 

Not a soyboy, but strong. 

Not an idiot, but capable. 

Not retarded, but full of potential. 

Not a creep, but kind.

The people who say this will often nod their heads, smile, and rub our shoulders while telling us these positive labels.  But deep down, the damage has already been done.  Furthermore, deep down, we know that these positive labels are nothing more than the attempt of others to help us not feel so bad.  They are like a condescending pat on the head:

“There, there.  You are not a loser for you have greatness within you, you are so special, you are so wonderful, you are so valuable, you are so inspiring…. yada, yada, yada….”   

I do not know about you, but all the positive attempts of others to combat the insults of the world just make things worse.  All the pious attempts of others to speak positive words into this cruel world are ineffective, weak, and, more often than not, unhelpful.  Frankly, all that positive stuff just seems fake, empty, and plastic.  

So, Pastor Richard, are we just left dealing with these insults?  Are these insults true?  No, they are not true.  And the reason why?  

“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

You see, if Jesus were not the Christ, the Son of the Living God, perhaps, we would be stuck with all these cruel labels in life.  If Jesus were not the Christ, perhaps, all you might ever be is a loser, freak, slut, or idiot.  If Jesus were not the Christ, maybe, by your own reason or strength, you could be brave, unique, and beautiful for a time; however, that would be only for a little while, because in the end, death always gobbles up the world’s bravery. Death always destroys beauty.  Death always devours strength.  And so, if Jesus were not the Christ, there ain't much worth living for in this life, and all those labels just might be true.


However, dear friends, I have the privilege to confess to you the words of the Apostle Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

But what does this have to do with us and the cruel labels that get flung at us every single day?  It actually has everything to do with you and me!

Listen up right now.  Do not let what I am going to say to you pass through your ears…  Because Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah – it was necessary for Him to suffer many things, be rejected, be killed, and rise after three days.  And why this is so significant is that Jesus’ suffering, rejection, dying, and rising was for each and every one of you so that you might be His own.  

Sit up in those pews and open your ears: you were purchased and won from all sins, from death, from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with the precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ, so that you may be His own.  Furthermore, in holy baptism, you and all those sticky cruel labels were buried into Christ’s death.  And so, as one who belongs to Christ – who bears the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – you are no longer defined by the sins you have committed, you are no longer captive to the fear of death, and you certainly do not belong to the cruel labels of the world.  They do not define you; Jesus does.

Answer this for me: How can the world’s cruel labels have any authority or hold any sway over you Christians since you have been crucified in relation to the world – set free from the stifling atmosphere and little patterns of the world?  That is to say; you Christians are not and cannot be a weird loser or a lame freak or a stupid soyboy or any of those thousand other tinyminded labels that the world tosses at you for you do not belong to the world, but you belong to Jesus.  You are His own.  He is the Messiah; He gives you an identity through His Messianic work at the cross and the empty grave.      

And so, listen up once again about who you are.  Hear about your identity.  In Christ, by Christ, and for Christ, you are:

A Child of God (John 1:12)

A Saint (1 Corinthians 1:2)

One Who is Chosen (1 Peter 2:9)

An Heir (Romans 8:17)

The Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7)

The Light of the World (Mat 5:14)

Salt of the Earth (Mat. 5:13)

A New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

A Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)

A Friend of God (John 15:15)

The Bride of Christ (Rev 21:9)

A Citizen of Heaven (Phil. 3:20)

God’s Workmanship (Eph 2:10)

Those Justified (Romans 5:1)

Those Sanctified (1 Cor 6:11)

And the Beloved (Col 3:12)

This is your identity bestowed upon you by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is the identity He gives to you through His suffering, death, and resurrection.  

And so, when the world brings its accusing labels against you – when the world tries to wound you, bully you, and box you up in a tiny-minded identity - say this, 

“O world, your labels do not matter to me.  In fact, call me what you want, for I do not belong to you.  My identity is not found in that which is perishing, for I belong to the Messiah – the Christ – the One who bled, died, and rose for me.  Where He is, I will also be. For I am His and He is mine.  I am a Baptized Child of God.  My identity is with Christ today, tomorrow, and forever.  Indeed, do what you will O world,   for my identity is in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.