This message was delivered on October 30, 2016 at the Green Lake Federated Church. I also provided all of the materials for the service, including liturgy and the hymns.

Get Stuff Done

I have no idea what I’m doing. There hasn’t been a time I’ve truly known what I’m doing ever in my life, really. I distinctly remember a time about half way through my college career, where, somewhere around the four hour mark of trying hopelessly to solve a computer science problem I proclaimed that same sentence face down into the floor of the computer lab. I also distinctly remember a time where I thought that same sentence immediately before proceeding with writing a sermon. I am unlike a lot of people, though. Regardless of whether or not I think I know what I’m doing, I continue at the task anyway. Many college kids seem to utter the phrase “I have no idea what I’m doing” quite a bit these days, as though they haven’t learned anything at all. Since they have no idea what they’re doing, they follow that phrase up by saying “So, I don’t think I can do that.”

That is hands down my least favorite saying in the English language. Saying that you don’t think that you can do something based solely on the fact that you don’t know how to do it is, in my opinion, the number one thing holding students back. Uncertainty is something that students entering college really have no experience with until they get there. For the most part, the time before college is a time where you really don’t have to worry about the basic things because you have something to rely on – your parents. If you were fortunate enough to have parents that you could rely on, there wasn’t really anything you didn’t know how to do because there was always someone there that you could fall back on. And then, your parents who you so desperately needed drop you off at a university 43 times the size of your entire K-12 school and don’t look back. How rude.

College kids aren’t the only uncertain ones in the world, though. We all, at some point have dismissed doing something based on us not knowing what the outcome will be. Sometimes this is justified, such as at the workplace where someone could lose an arm, but most of the time it’s because we don’t have confidence in ourselves. We make up excuses. We put it off until we think we’ll be able to handle it better. Truly the only thing holding us back is our own mind and nothing else. People have been doing extraordinary things since we were first created and the only thing that separates us from those people is our mind. Besides that, for the most part we’re all the same water based, oxygen breathing humanoid life forms.

Unfortunately, getting over the mind hurdle isn’t easy in the slightest. If it was, I wouldn’t have found it necessary to preach at you about it in the first place. Confidence takes years or even lifetimes to build, and only takes a single thing to tear it all down. I was walking along the street in Oshkosh not too long ago, coming back home from getting some food. As I was crossing the street, someone drove by at yelled an anti-gay slur that you could probably guess out of their window at me. They took extra caution to pronounce the T at the end, as well. Many people that are a part of the LGBT community have zero confidence in themselves because they are a part of something that generates so much hate amongst the outside world, and they can do nothing to change that. If they were finally able to go outside and face the world and hear that, their confidence in their own identity gets destroyed. If one thing could make the world better, it would be giving everyone a bit of confidence in themselves. Give the homeless children the confidence that they could change the world one day. Give the people suffering in their 9–5 job just to pay rent the confidence to go back to school, or apply for a different job. But it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we have to constantly fight ourselves to get back what’s rightfully ours.

So, you’re probably wondering what my answer will be to the question of how you gain confidence. Unfortunately, because I don’t know, I don’t have the confidence to tell you explicitly how to gain it. I did google it, however, and found the most interesting wikiHow article on the subject, complete with illustrations. Everyone is different, though, so your mileage may vary. What I can tell you, though, is that we have a reason to be confident and find confidence. We have a reason to believe in ourselves and get out of bed in the morning, even when we have Calculus 2 as an 8 AM. That reason, as the scripture for today suggests, is Jesus.

The scripture for today was from the book of Hebrews, which was a letter of encouragement probably written by Paul to the Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem. These people were constantly being subjected to the perpetual turmoil of politics and religious differences. During this time, the title of high priest was not something that was actually well regarded. When the role started, God chose Aaron to serve as the high priest, in order to be a human connection to God. As time passed, the people that held the position were part of illegitimate families and tended to more or less purchase the position. They took advantage of the people by taking away people’s property and by any other means they could. These people did not accept the call of God to the role but instead accepted the call of their own selfish desires. Gerhard Kittel, in their examination of the New Testament mentions that “During [the time between] 37 BC and 70 AD, 28 high priests [let go] of the office, and 25 of them were of non-legitimate priestly families.” [1] This turmoil led to the people of Jerusalem, the people that were the backbone in Christianity, being very unconfident in their beliefs. To counter this feeling, Paul wrote this letter to say, to use my favorite saying in the English language, that Jesus was bigger than all of this.

Paul did this by saying that Jesus was the great high priest. The office of great high priest was not something that could be bought or sold, and not something that could be handed down between family members. The office of great high priest was and is held by one person – Jesus. This notion gave the people of Jerusalem something to be confident in, because Jesus was someone that they could relate to. No longer was the high priest someone who was unreachable to the people, no longer was the high priest someone that just didn’t care about the concerns of the people. Jesus was the human connection between the people of Earth and God, and that made him even more close to the people than the normal high priests themselves. Jesus was someone that the people could approach and talk with. They could do this because Jesus shared something in common with everyone both then and now – he was tempted. He was tempted with everything that normal people were, he was tempted by sin. And yet, he chose not to act on it. He was not able to just avoid sin because he was the son of God, but because he knew himself that the path of sin was not the correct one. Of course, it definitely helps when your father is God. This gave the people of Jerusalem confidence that they too could live like Jesus even though they weren’t the son of God.

Paul took careful time to refute everything that had been done by the government in the years leading up to the writing of the letter. He notes that the high priest is someone that is selected from amongst the people, not someone who was born into the family or has enough money to purchase the position. He also goes on to suggest that the high priest is someone who represents the people in matters related to God. The people that were previously in the position were not representative of the people, but rather their own interests. They were more interested in collecting the land and the money of the people, rather than actually attempting to do the right thing. This sounds all too familiar, especially during this time where confidence in the government is at an all-time low. hWe, just like the Hebrew people of Jerusalem, need someone there to remind us that there is something greater than all of this; that there is someone there that we can rely on and have a connection to.

So, “let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” Let us do what has never been done before without being punishable by death and approach God’s throne with confidence, because by doing so, we receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. We can have confidence because his throne is not something that is unreachable, but is here and is accessible by each of us. We can dialog with God any time we need just by calling his name. The best part about that is, he actually listens. When we can’t be confident in anyone or anything else in the world, we have one person that is always there for us. We can rely on him, and we can be confident in him.

There is one problem with being confident, though, and it’s the fear of many and one of the reasons we too often say “I can’t do that.” When we fall, who’s there to pick us back up? Before college, we rely on our parents to pick us back up when we fall, and so we feel like we can do anything – which, can lead to problems, especially when the teenage brain isn’t close to being done with developing yet. And then they drop us off, and we’re left in the dark. Luckily, God’s throne is not a throne of unforgiveness or disgrace but one of grace. Ephesians 4:7 says that “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Grace is given to everyone, no matter the race, income level, or college that you attended.

Grace is defined as being the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we’ve done to earn it. When we were a child, we never really did anything to earn our parent’s love, except for being really cute. And yet, our parents were hopefully the thing you could always come back to in order to find grace once again. They were there every time you fell down and every time you stood tall, supporting you whenever they could. However, even if you didn’t have your parents or anything else, you still have God. In verse 5, Paul mentions that when Jesus accepted the call of his father, God said to him “You are my son; today I have become your father.” God was his father and showed unending grace to him. Just like Jesus, God is our father, who will always be there for us and always be ready to play a game of catch. Regardless of anyone else, God has always been there. From the day you were born, he has been there for you every time you fell down and every time you stood tall, even when you didn’t even know. This will continue forever, because he is our father, our great high priest.

This particular message comes at an interesting time for me. I truly don’t believe that I’ve ever been more unsure about the future than I am now. I came into college knowing what I wanted to do – major in computer science and eventually move out to Portland. As time continued, I realized that I would actually probably take four and a half years to graduate instead of four, giving me that extra semester to figure out what I wanted to do. I continued on, telling most of everyone and myself that I would be taking that extra semester and that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after school yet. And then, this semester rolls around. I took the time to actually closely examine the report on my progress through university, and as it turns out, I will likely be able to graduate at the end of next semester. Which was great, don’t get me wrong, but I quite literally have no idea what I’m going to be doing at the end of May. I signed a lease for next year already in Oshkosh, so I’ll have to figure that out. I now have to write a thesis and give two capstone presentations and apply for jobs and find a place to live and the entire idea of graduating has got me a bit on edge.

This is why I chose the theme of confidence for this week. It is something that I am working on all of the time and am facing right now. Some of the things I’ve researched and thought about this week while preparing this have been challenging to me as well. Even after writing this, I’m still terrified about the future and what’s going to happen.

There is another phrase that I’m quite fond of, so much so that I painted it in cursive and hung it on my wall, and that’s “get stuff done.” It is a reminder to me that whatever I have to do, I just have to do it. I knew what I had to do previously – go to school and graduate with a degree. So, I found confidence to actually go to a place 43 times the size of my high school and live a life I wasn’t used to yet. What is it that you have to do? Do you need to make a change in jobs, move to a new place, get out of bed in the morning? It is something you need to do, so get it done. Whatever it is you need to do, even if you’re nervous about actually following through, get it done. You have a reason to be confident in yourself, because there is someone who is there that is accessible to you and will show you grace if you fail. Never pass up the opportunity to do something just because you were too scared to do it. Get it done, and get it done with confidence. Amen.

[1] Kittel, Gerhard (editor), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Article on “archiereus” by Gottlob Schrenk. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1972. pg. 268.