Our Gospel Catalysts’ most recent blogs have been focusing on the theme of Preaching as Pastoral Care. I would like to offer this sermon abstract and manuscript you loyal AoP blog readers, a little different than the previous blogs, with the hopes you’ll see the effort and strategy of a young preacher seeking to be a pastoral preacher. This sermon abstract and manuscript was written and preached for a homiletics course at Candler School of Theology in Spring 2011. The course was entitled “Special Topics in Preaching” which covered an array of taboo topics in preaching.
One of the key tenets of pastoral care is the art of preaching; this is where most preachers will have direct communication and “contact” with their congregants and listeners. A person may never make an appointment to see you for individual counsel but may just sit down for a few minutes to hear you deliver a message; and that message needs to be one that speaks to their psyche and soul with a homiletic of humility and hope.
The context in which I imagined preaching this sermon was at a local church that has just lost a young person due to suicide; the funeral was held at least 2 weeks prior to this worship experience. She left a note that spoke of being bullied and tormented for being “fat and ugly.” Though this has not really happened in my local church the rise of cyber bullying has made me very sensitive and concerned about self-image, self-esteem and bullying. So please imagine this sermon being preached in the midst of the national rise of bullying, hate crimes, and suicides – and a local congregational crisis that mirrors the national crisis.
God Don’t Make No Junk
Psalm 139:13-18 (key verse 14)
Genesis 1:27 (supporting text)
Purpose of Sermon
The purpose of this sermon to combat the negative images, stereotypes, and media representations that arrest the attention, self-esteem, and confidence of individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age.
1. I will make use of a mirror(s) during the introduction to highlight how often we think negatively of ourselves when we review our outward appearance.
2. I also will use a line from a song by Ethel Waters.
Brief Outline of Major Points
1. We all were created by God
2. We all are wonderful creations
3. We all are divine creations
4. Our existence is an indication that God is worthy of our praise
GOD DON’T MAKE NO JUNK
Imagine for a minute that you are looking in a mirror. I would like for you to take a long, hard look at yourself. Glance over your hair, your eye brows, your nose, lips, teeth, ears, and chin. Now look yourself in the eyes. What do you see? Really, what do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror? Most people immediately see their flaws or physical mishaps when they glance into the mirror. The majority of people are not pleased with the individual that they see gazing back at them. At least thirty percent of you are not happy with your physical make-up; you want to change your hair, your teeth, skin texture, complexion, maybe even your nose. You just don’t feel attractive. Our idea of beauty is not parallel with what we see when we look into the mirror and this is a contributing factor that determines our self-image.
Where does our idea of beauty come from? There are many factors that play a role in how we determine what is beautiful; those factors are culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, social setting, age, educational level, occupation, religious affiliation, community, goals, and media. Images are embedded into our brains from television, radio, internet, advertisements, books, and family at a very early age.
Images of women’s bodies are everywhere. Women – and their body parts – sell everything from food to cars. Women’s magazines are full of articles strongly suggesting that if YOU could just lose those last twenty pounds, YOU’LL have it all—the perfect marriage, loving children, great sex, and a rewarding career. In most cases the idea of beauty has been reduced to voluptuous depictions of women – small waist, thick hips, perky breasts, and a big butt is what every man wants right? At least that is what the media is presenting. The images of men that are being portrayed are not too different from that of women. According to billboards, magazine advertisements, and television sitcoms every woman wants a man with a six pack abdomen, adorable smile, intense eyes, and a baby face. How many of us actually look like the models, actors and actresses found on television, movies, in magazines and on advertisements? Not many!
Standards of beauty are being imposed on men and women alike. Some analysts argue that the roots are economic. The cosmetic and diet product industries are assured growth and profits as a result of presenting an ideal physique that is difficult for people to achieve and maintain. The stakes for these industries are high. Women who are insecure about their bodies are more likely to buy beauty products, new clothes, and diet aids. It is estimated that the diet industry alone is worth anywhere between 40 to 100 billion (U.S.) a year selling temporary weight loss (90 to 95% of dieters regain the lost weight).
Additionally, research indicates that exposure to images of thin, young, air-brushed female bodies is linked to depression, loss of self-esteem and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women and girls. “According to statistics posted by the National Institute on Media and the Family, by age 13, some 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their bodies; that figure grows to 78 percent by the time girls reach 17. In another study on fifth graders, 10-year-old girls and boys told researchers they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears or a clip from the TV show Friends. And adolescent girls who viewed commercials depicting unrealistically thin models felt ‘less confident, more angry, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance.’”
I know that I have highlighted the female side of this coin a lot this morning/afternoon/evening but the research is resounding as it relates to women as if men do not suffer from the self-esteem and self-image issues. Males, however, are just as impacted by the many factors that I mentioned earlier when it comes to their physique and masculinity. Sandra Kronberg, director and co-founder of Eating Disorder Associates Treatment & Referral Centers stated, “From a very young age, boys are surrounded with media messages of what they should look like. Action figures present subtle messages of unrealistic role models of well-sculpted, heavily muscled, ‘perfect’ bodies that little boys see as their role models” – like the good ol’ GI Joe or super hero action figures.
Pop culture plays a great role in our attitudes about image. It suggests that there is a “fix” if we are unhappy with our physique. Pop culture conveys to people of all ages that we need to change in order to be socially accepted and considered attractive. But pop culture is not the only device that has distorted our view of beauty. We have taken our narrow view of what is attractive and socially acceptable to our places of worship. You know – when we do not allow the drunk from off the street who smells bad and isn’t dressed appropriately for church to sit amongst us. Or what about when we turn our noses up at the young woman who comes to church in a tight or short dress? What about when we grimace at the young man who has too much switch in his hips? Image is everything!
When you look at me can you determine what type of household I grew up in? Can you tell whether I was ever homeless? Can you identify my past and present struggles based on my appearance alone? No one in here looks like what they have been through and no one goes to church displaying their household, occupational, educational or inner distress. Church has certainly become a masquerade in which people perpetuate false images just to be accepted.
But thanks be to God that pop culture nor people’s acceptance do not dictate God’s love for us – that love that God expressed as the Almighty crafted us in such an awesome way. The Psalmist says in 139:14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” God don’t make no junk! Psalm 139 is about the omnipresence of God – the inescapable God! God is everywhere and knows all things therefore there is no where that we can hide from the Creator. She knew us before we were ever formed in our mothers’ wombs. And in all of God’s splendor and knowledge, She took the time to create us. We are wonderfully made. We are creatures created by the ultimate craftsman – the same God that constructed the heavens and the earth, the waters and the land, the creatures of the air and of the sea took time to make you and me! He grabbed the earth from the land, he blew His breath, and there was man (and woman). God don’t make no junk!
Regardless of what your culture perpetuates or what the media bombards you with, you, you, and you are beautifully created! The human body is such a complex entity in which God attentively assembled with care: 206 bones, 640 skeletal muscles, and over 1 billion nerves weaved into circulatory, nervous, and respiratory systems. The heart pumping blood while the brain is sending signals all in an orchestrated time for the functioning of the body. God don’t make no junk!
I like how the Contemporary English Version puts it, “and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.” There should be no doubt in our minds that we are superb human sculptures simply because the One behind the handiwork is God Herself. God don’t make no junk! He made us in His image. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them (NRSV Genesis 1:27).” We are divine beings fashioned in the very likeness of God. Despite our differences we have one thing in common – we look like God and She ain’t a bad looking woman! We are divine reflections of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! We are a part of a royal lineage, a peculiar nation, a chosen people set apart.
We have to take responsibility for the way in which we treat and judge one another based on looks alone. We need to certainly apply and demonstrate the Golden Rule: treat others as we would like to be treated. Oftentimes we permit the images of the world to pervade our minds so much that we begin to treat people, God’s creations, as scum of the earth because of the way they look, smell or act. No one is perfect but we were all made by a perfect God. Church ought to be a secure environment in which one learns to love and be loved. The negativity that the media fosters within our minds about ourselves and others can become extremely detrimental to the Body of Christ. One cannot truly love another until he or she learns to love him or herself.
I encourage you to change your skewed perspective of beauty to that of what God wants it to be. You are somebody. You are special. Love yourself! And know that God don’t make no junk!
Do not allow the narrow notions of beauty to shake your confidence. Do not allow the media to arrest your poise. Do not allow your familial standards of attractiveness to shatter your self-esteem. Remember that God don’t make no junk!
The Hebrew Psalmist begins verse 14 in the 139th Psalm by saying, “I will praise you…” He indicates that his very existence is worth giving God praise. Our existence too merits glorifying God. Every inch of you is gorgeous inside and out because God created you. Do not be dismayed by what you see on television but be provoked to give God praise for your individuality. Beauty is not only skin deep. God has created each and every one of us as unique individuals with different gifts and talents and that makes us beautiful. Who we are on the inside matters more than who we portray or attempt to portray outwardly. True beauty does resonate from one’s character that has been developed by Christ. God don’t make no junk!
So the next time you gaze into a mirror it is my prayer that you don’t see flaws, ugly traits or anything that you are unhappy with. You ought to see a marvelous creation of God. See a wonderful, unique human being with beautiful skin, hair, eye brows, lips, teeth, and ears. See a divine creation with talents, gifts, skills, endowments, and flair. Say to yourself in the words of Ethel Waters, the African American jazz singer, “I know I’m somebody ’cause God don’t make no junk!”