You’re Special – Think Different
May 21, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Good morning, confirmation class, parents, friends, church members. Good morning, one and all.
There is a simple idea that I’d like to share with all of you today. It springs up from the Holy Scripture. It is simply this: You are special. Therefore, think different. You are special. Therefore, you are free to think different. And the scripture that I’d like to share with you is from the book of Romans, the twelfth chapter, the second verse. “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
When I was a boy, I grew up in Linden, New Jersey. Down the main street of town, down Wood Avenue, they would have parades on patriotic holidays and on Halloween. I love parades! I’d love to listen for the band coming down the street, and I’d love to listen for the bass drum and the other drums coming down the street. [Pastor Tony plays drum-like bass notes on the piano.] There was something about the beat of the bass drum and the rat-a-tat-tat of the snare drum and the rumble of the tom-toms that just got your feet to tapping and your heart to pounding. You just wanted to join in. You wanted to march along with them.
I invite you to picture a parade like that in your mind. See those wonderful glistening instruments coming down the street. See those beautiful costumes. Hear that drumbeat. And in this particular parade, there is something remarkable going on right at the front. Right at the front, there is a cross. Someone is carrying a cross leading the parade. And the end of the parade, there are people giving you an invitation to come march along. Don’t you want to march along? Can’t you feel the drumbeat in your feet? Don’t you just want to join along?
That’s what’s happening today for our confirmation class, and that’s what is happening for each and every one of us. We are invited to come join the march of Christ. We are invited to come be part of His parade. Join in, my friends; the invitation comes to you. And it’s an exciting way to live.
But you know what? Even as we want to join right in, there are forces that seem to pull us away. There are those who would try to dissuade us, who would say, “No, don’t do that. Do something different. Follow us.” That’s what we refer to as “this world” – the people who don’t have God in their lives, the people who don’t make God a priority, the people who lure us away from marching with Christ. That’s what the scripture is talking about. It’s saying, “Don’t be conformed” – in other words, don’t be pushed into that Jell-O mold. Don’t be pushed into the form of the godless world. “But be transformed” – follow Christ – by the renewing of your mind.
Confirmation class, everybody, I know you’re going to go through a lot of struggles, a lot of temptations in life. There will be an element that will try to pull you away from the march of Christ. There will be peer pressure. There will be advertisements. There will be all kinds of things. But I’m saying to you today, remember who you are. Remember who you belong to. Remember who your drummer is; it’s Jesus Christ, the Lord. It is He who can tell you who you are and can give you all the value and all the joy you need. You’re special. You’re free to think different.
The world has all kinds of tugs and pulls on us. I almost never watch T.V., but I’ve seen some television ads, for instance for beer, that tell us, “Drink this kind of beer and you’ll have all these friends.” Yeah, right. I saw a big poster with a picture of a distinguished looking man. It said, “Dignity.” Good value. But then I noticed that it was an advertisement for whiskey! I don’t get it! But I’ll tell you what it is – it’s this world trying to conform you to itself. And I’m saying, don’t do it! Because you’re special. You’re different. That’s good! Be proud of it.
I saw a wonderful commercial on T.V. A group of teenagers was having a party. They were having a good old time, singing and dancing, and then the doorbell rings. The young teen who was obviously the host of the party goes to the door and opens it. Standing there is another young teen who wants to come in to the party. The teen at the door has a six pack of beer in his hand. The host looks at him, looks at the beer, and says, “Sorry. Get rid of the beer and you’re welcome to come back.” And he closes the door. Isn’t that great? That’s being not conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
You’re going to have a lot of pulls on you. But there’s good news, and the good news is that you have a great drummer. His name is Jesus Christ, and He’s going to be there for you your whole life long.
The world has all kinds of pulls and tugs on us. I was on vacation several years ago down in Ocean Grove. I love that town. I was riding my bike and I stopped for a minute. Two young ladies came up to me and said “Hi, how are you doing?”
I said, “I’m fine.”
They said, “So, what is there to do for fun around here?”
I said, “There’s an ice cream store down the street. There are good restaurants, gift shops, stuff like that. There’s the ocean.”
They said, “Yeah, okay. We’ve checked that out. By the way, where’s the liquor store in this town?”
I said, “Liquor store? This is Ocean Grove.”
They said, “Why does everybody say that? Is this some kind of holy town or something?”
I said, “Well, you could say that. It was established by the Methodists a long time ago.”
They sighed. I said, “Well, you could check Bradley Beach. They probably have a liquor store there.”
“Well,” they said, “you look like a fun kind of guy. What do you do for a living?”
I said, “Miss, I will answer you truthfully, but I’m afraid it’s just not going to make your day.” I hope they had a great time.
“Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Listen, first of all, you’ve got a great drummer and a great beat, and He will take care of you your whole life long, my friends. Please remember that.
Second, you’ve got a great tradition, a great heritage. Last night we were in here listening to our prayer partners, and we were deeply moved to hear what they want to bestow on you. Friends, that parade goes way, way up front. Your parents, your grandparents, relatives that you never met, have all worked to bestow the faith that you have today. You’re a part of a great tradition. You’re not alone. You’ve got great people rooting for you, here on earth and in heaven above.
And third, you’re part of a great family. If you want to see what it looks like, just turn and look around. All these people are here for you, and there will always be people here for you. You are part of a great family. When the going gets tough, you know you have solid support here, in your family, in your church family, and in your pastor. We are here for you.
So, as you go forward today and are confirmed, and as all of us renew our confirmation vows with our children, let’s remember this, that we don’t need to be conformed to the draws of this world. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Let me leave you with this scripture, may I? From the second chapter of the first letter of Peter, verse 9, hear this and take it to heart: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. You are His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” You are special. Think different. Welcome to the family. God loves you. I do, too. God bless you, everyone. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski