Our Attachment to Identity

Our identity in Christ supersedes all others.
No allegiance is more important.
This is the basis for our unity in Christ.

When you meet someone new, what do you tell about yourself so people will know and understand who you are? What do you not need to say verbally because they can see it in your person?

What conclusions about you will people draw? The ones you want to project, or something else? We draw initial impressions about people based on our observations. It is one of the ways we naturally make sense of our world, and may have roots in our early ancestors and their need to assess friend from foe, safe from dangerous on a daily basis – their lived depended on it. This continues still today in some communities, as we’ve heard on the news over the last year and many have experienced for decades. Recent violence in Europe and Africa makes clear that this issue is wide spread.

Me? I’m a straight, middle aged and middle class white guy. On most days all of that is pretty obvious. You wouldn’t know I’m of German, Irish and Scottish descent. Occasionally we go to the Irish Festival or Octoberfest and enjoy some of the very surface expressions of our cultural heritage, but we don’t take any of it very seriously. You wouldn’t know I’ve got doctors and professors and teachers and soldiers among my ancestors. By talking to me you wouldn’t guess where I grew up – my accent is pretty nondescript. Depending in large part on where you grew up and the environment in which you were raised, you might draw one or another set of conclusions about me and what I’m probably like. You wouldn’t know I’m a preacher most days, though once I say it you’ll think, “Oh, of course. I see it now.”

Veterans are an interesting group to observe in this regard. Some who served generations ago still proudly proclaim their affiliations today with pins, hats and other insignia. Others never mention their service unless specifically asked. I don’t know what makes the difference, perhaps the type of experiences encountered during the service. Were they in combat? Were they wounded? (The Brite Soul Repair Center is a great program helping veterans, their families and communities return and reintegrate after military service, which has a lot to do with identity.)

I have no stake in what identities other people claim for themselves, as long as they are not rooted in hatred and promoting of violence and destruction. My interest here is in the way our various identities intersect and when one trumps others. We have national identities, racial identities, ethnic identities, religious identities, gender identities, familial identities, sexual orientation identities, college or professional sports team identities, regional or city or even neighborhood identities. All of that is fine, wonderful, and interesting.

What I’m wondering is how we decide from among those identities which to highlight in various situations. Which is most important in most or every situation? What happens when they conflict? Or when your choice conflicts with those close to you?

**  A reflection for “Our Attachment to Identity” From 1 Corinthians 7:29-31   &   Mark 1:14-20 First preached Sunday 1/25/15 @ http://www.StPaulUCCDallas.org

See also: “Are You My Mother?” and “Where Does Identity Lead You?

Follow the weak and the frail?

Could it be that as soon as the church finds itself on the top side of history we must immediately turn, look around, and go sit with those who are on the bottom side?  What if the only way to enter into the presence of God and remain with God is by following those who are dispossessed? Israel was always closest to God when they were the lost bride in need of redemption. When the people were lifted out of oppression and rose to power, almost immediately did they turn their backs on the one who had saved them.

In the midst of all the talk about race relations, community policing, inequity, poverty, crime, and yes, even outright systemic racism, could it be that Christians are missing the point? All of us, White, Black, Asian, Latin, and more? As we are now 12 days before Christmas, I’m reminded of the ways in which God entered into the underside of history, and everyone seems to have missed the point. Mary and Joseph ended up in a stable, which means they didn’t find hospitality from the rich or the poor. Herod tried to kill Jesus, but the wise men did nothing to protect him. The shepherds came and worshiped, and then returned to their fields, filled with joy, but presumably not to change the course of their lives. Even those who may have had some idea who this child was were left untransformed by his presence.

What needs to change in us so that we can finally be humble before those God sends to us as messengers, “Angelos,” to teach us and leads us to peace?