July 19 1998

  Changing from a Nobody to a Somebody
     
  John 1:1-13
 

LAST THURSDAY I OPENED THE NEW OFFICES of Wesley Employment, Liverpool. This is one of several Wesley Employment Centres we have opened in the south-western suburbs where unemployment is highest. We have opened offices with competent and trained staff in Campbelltown, Liverpool, Fairfield, Villawood, Revesby and Canley Vale. We also have offices in the Central Business District of Sydney, at Hornsby, Gosford, Dubbo and Orange. Australia has 8.2% unemployment. The Fairfield-Liverpool area has 11.7% unemployment, the highest of any area in Australia.June 98 The second highest NSW area is Gosford with 8.5%. Wesley Employment is the largest employment service conducted by any church in Australia. These centres will place 6,600 unemployed people into work over the next twelve months. We have a proud achievement record.

After opening the new offices in George St, Liverpool, I walked to where I had parked my car. It was near the huge Department of Housing building. I was wondering why the communities that have the highest unemployment rates, the highest number of people living in state housing, the highest number of single parent families, the highest number of people on welfare benefits and so on, also have Government offices as their finest buildings. Does the availability of services encourage their use? Do Government welfare facilities create a mentality of dependency?

Lost in these thoughts, I was talking a short cut through the back alley off Railway St, when I came upon two young men spraying graffiti on a wall of a building with spray cans. They did not see me.

They were dressed in uniform: Nike shoes, lycra baggy track pants, t-shirt and baseball caps worn backwards. Looking up, they suddenly saw me. They looked for a way of escape. I could have been a detective, a store manager, a property owner. The sign of a suit in the alley was enough for flight. I said: "Is that your name?" pointing to a sign one had just finished. "Stient?" "Stinte, that's me tag." "Why do you paint your name when it identifies you?" "Well, you read it didn't you?" he said, and fled for his life. I humbly admit I did not accomplish a crash tackle, bring both to earth and make a citizen's arrest. I just watched them flee.

Signing your name on graffiti so everyone could read it! That is exactly why publicising their names in local papers pleases them. These unemployed vandals want notoriety. They want people to recognise their tags, know their names, be on police wanted lists. They are nobodies who want to be somebodies! That is the reason why thousands of people have voted for Pauline Hanson's political candidates. They feel no-one is listening to them or taking notice of them. But when they vote "One Nation" everyone talks and writes about them. They feel significant and noticed. They are nobodies who want to be somebodies. I have watched people who attend Church Presbytery and Synod meetings and who make strong speeches on issues. Inevitably they are people who in their local environment have few people ever listening to them. But by their speeches and votes they achieve significance.

To feel significant is a great motivation in human behaviour. The more notice others take and even condemn them, the better they feel.

1. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO FEEL SIGNIFICANT.

Many tackling the problem of destructive people want more punishment, greater restriction and increased intimidation. To the person with low self-esteem these condemnations and threats only reinforce their own opinion of themselves. It fills their need to feel significant. We never improve society by stressing better standards of outward behaviour until we change the person within. All social improvement comes from moral commitment. That is why the Ten Commandments are in order: we are to put God first, worship Him alone, not take the name of the Lord in vain, worship Him weekly then honour our parents, respect human life, fulfil sexual relationships, not steal, lie or envy others. If we are right inside, we behave correctly externally.

If our motivation is right, our action is right. Jesus put them in the right order: "The most important commandment is."Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul. with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second most important commandment is this: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself.'" Mk 12:2930 Attempts to put social behaviour right without first changing the heart are doomed to failure. Atheistic communism tried to build society without renewing people spiritually. It became the greatest failure of the Twentieth Century. Better people come before a better world! Hence youth need not just knowledge, but an understanding of who they are, and their own personal place in the cosmic scheme. Everyone needs to feel significant. Every nobody must become a somebody. Every nobody wants fifteen minutes of fame. Education is never complete until a person knows him or herself. Everybody needs to feel significant.

People do not have equal opportunities or abilities, but all need to feel significant. When children play each wants to be the captain. Adults surround themselves with status symbols to create the image of significance through possessions. Older people seek reassurance of their significance from their adult children. People suffering personal inferiority over-compensate grasping for power and authority. The short, failed paperhanger who never rose above an army lieutenant, organised huge rallies where he could shout to the masses; "Look at me. I'm somebody!" and the crowds shouted back; "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!" Professor Alfred Adler said personal significance is basic need in all of us. How we achieve it is varied.

2. EVERYBODY TRIES SOMEHOW TO BE SIGNIFICANT.

Our need is simple but our methods of meeting it are complex. The spraycan graffitists are like children lying on the floor kicking their heels in rage. That is called attention getting behaviour. So is the women who goes to a party in an absurdly lowcut dress. Parties are the environment where many exaggerate their behaviour, lie about their achievements, and compete with one another. One woman, tired by the strain of people constantly trying to make impressions on others, sank wearily next to a little man who looked uncomfortable as he mopped his brow. She said: "Thank heavens I've found somebody who's a nobody!"

One common way people use to feel significant is to surround themselves with social props. They try to find significance through owning status symbols. The right car, dress label, address, watch, anything to create a sense of personal significance. 6.

Yet even doing that can cause others trouble. T.S.Eliot in his "The Cocktail Party" writes:

"Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
They do not mean to do harm
for harm does not interest them,
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed with the endless
struggle To think well of themselves." p111

Others build their sense of personal significance by magnifying difficulties they have overcome, and minimising resources they had at their disposal. Both these tactics designed to magnify their own contribution. Whatever the method, we each prefer to be a somebody rather than a nobody.

3. EVERYBODY CAN DISCOVER PERSONAL SIGNIFICANCE. You can realise your own true significance. It does not come by your efforts to pump yourself up. That makes you look ridiculous: a frog in danger of exploding. Significance is discovered when we realise our own inadequacy and our utter dependence upon others, especially God. Lorene was a college student who was withdrawn, completely isolated. She had bad face eczema and acne. She was drinking alcohol alone. Her English teacher, Morris Morrison, spent time with her, helping her to understand poetry. She began to respond and cooperate with Mr Morrison. Once she read two lines from Emily Dickinson: "I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you Nobody too?" In discovering that others were lonely and felt insignificant, she found solace, and the start of recovery. When we realise that we are nobodies, we leave enough room inside of ourselves for God to do His work. God made us. He loves us. And He wants us to be His very own.

Our importance lies not in our possessions, our achievements or our status. Kick away all of our props, our home, our stimulants, our friendships, our job, our status, our degrees and honours, accomplishments and awards and what is there left? Only what you are! Only the significance that God places upon you counts. Thank God, God loves us!

We become a Somebody, not by what we possess, but by Who possesses us. We become a Somebody not because of our birth, but because of our rebirth. We become a Somebody, not because of what we hold, but because of Who holds us. We are creatures of God, made by Him. But we have been recreated, born anew, Jesus described it. We are no longer creatures of God but His children, adopted into the family of God. John 1:12 "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." You are no longer a nobody! You are Somebody!

What does God require from us in return? Centuries ago Micah Mic 6:68 faced the same issue. What did the Lord require? Sacrificial offerings? Atonement for sin? Gifts to appease the Lord? Bribes to win His favour? "What the Lord requires is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God." Nothing more is needed. We do not need a sacrifice, for Jesus is our sacrifice. We do not need an atonement for our sins, for "Christ has for sin atonement made". What is required is that we do justice, show love, and live in fellowship with God. You may boast of your possessions and flaunt your talent and still be a nobody! But through faith in Christ you can be changed from Nobody into Somebody!

You must respond to Him in humble faith and become the person He intends you to be, a child of God. Christianity gives us an understanding of our selves, our world, our frailties and sinfulness. It also gives us God's response to how we claim forgiveness, newness and the power to cope. It gives us the ultimate meaning behind our existence. It gives us the way we can find fulfilment and purpose. Discovering God's way for us takes time and effort; not in the expenditure of effort in doing good deeds to make us more acceptable, nor in money spent in acts of charity in a vain effort to buy our way with God. Instead in expanding your knowledge and your belief in Jesus Christ.

The twentieth century has seen a decline in religious knowledge. Experts provide us with a wealth of information. They load the table with countless pieces of the jig-saw puzzle. But how to put them together when they don't fit? That's our problem. Hence T.S. Eliot's questioning in "Choruses from 'The Rock'":

"Where is the life we have lost in the living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

Life is like the game of Monopoly. We buy and sell, acquire property, borrow, avoid jail, advance asking ever more from the rest putting money and property as the end game. But life is more than knowledge and information, possessions and property. None of these last. The only thing that lasts is the significance we hold as a child of God. God can change you from a nobody into a somebody. Let Him work that miracle in your life now!

  Collected Poems 1909-1935 T S Eliot Faber 1958


Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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