Monday, September 25, 2017
Theology - Identity
One of the most persistent and perplexing questions that sits uneasy within us is, who am I? Parker Palmer gives the image of our ancestors tying a rope from the barn door to the back door so the farmer could find his way, not get lost, in a blizzard. That metaphor makes sense to me. It can feel like there are storms stirring around us and within us. Politically, socially, environmentally, families and even our own sense of being often feels like we are trying to make our way through a blizzard that blinds the eyes and sears the soul. In those days when our ancestors would tie a rope to tether them, the question of, "Who am I?" was not asked as much. On the one hand you had family ties that also tethered you to others; you were born/lived/died within a community - rarely moving - that also tethered you to others; you were expected to be a farmer because your dad/mom were farmers - as were your grandparents and great grandparents. The social fabric was knit tightly together. Not all the ties that bind us were blessings, some gagged and grossly oppressed, especially anyone who tried to answer, "Who am I?" outside the well defined and confining boxes. If you colored outside the lines, you were quickly reprimanded and learned not to repeat such a social faux pas. Like so many things in life, this was all good or bad...it just was.
And now here we are at a luminous threshold in history where this question, who am I seems so expansive and exhaustive. Countless voices still clamor chaotically trying to "help" us answer that question. "Help" in quotes intentionally, because so many of those voices are caught up in the economic and power structures of the world. We can "help" you for 19.95, plus shipping and handling. We can "help" you if you vote for our party. We can "help" you if you join this cause. The blizzard around us and within us still swirls and the rope doesn't seem to be tethered to anything. We keep trying to lasso something to help us weather the storm, but Goggle only gives us endless options and the ones at the top of the search have paid to be there.
And the church, for its part, has too often sounded a lot like a commercial. Come and join us, be on this committee, participate in this project...this will make you whole. Too often our faith ends us sounding transactional rather than transformational. God loves you...IF...you do/believe/act/ ascribe to the right actions and understandings we still preach right before the offering plate is passed.
Yet, our deepest, authentic sense of self is grounded in the first truth we hear in the first book of the Bible - you are a beloved child of God. You are being crafted and created in God's image - renewed and restored each day. That truth isn't for sale. You don't earn it. We receive it as a pure gift.
As we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, over the next few posts, I am going to reflect on our faith. We begin with identity because all theology (which simply means God talk or to quote Rob Bell's book - What we are talking about when we talk about God) is personal. As someone once said, "When we talk about God, we are talking about ourselves with a megaphone." God, Christ, Spirit, church, brokenness and blessedness are not some objective reality we can scientifically study...these words shape us.
We begin theology by reminding ourselves...who we are and whose we are. We are God's son/daughter....our relationship to the living God is what matters/makes all the differences/helps us make meaning of this one precious/fragile life. We are God's and God's grace freely given can help us define and distinguish in these blizzard-filled days.
I invite you to pray a prayer I learned from Richard Rohr...a simply mantra you meditate on...
"Who are you, God? And who am I?"
As you do, notice where you put the emphasis. Don't rush to reason a response. Just sit with this.
Who are you, God? said with inquisitive curiosity....
Who are you, God? said with intense desire to know more...
Who are you, God? said with openness and leaning into mystery.
And how does that question impact the next...
Who am I?
I pray this prayer is a blessing to you in these days.
Grace and peace ~~