Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Identity

Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased."
Mark's gospel doesn't leave us any surprises as to the identity of Jesus. 
        -Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God"... That's pretty clear.
        -Mark 1:11 Then the baptism, the Dove, the Holy Spirit, the voice.."You are my beloved Son."
There isn't much mystery in Mark's gospel. Jesus is the Son of God. That's his identity.
I started to think about the word, identity. We all have one, or maybe we have many identities.
Our identity, the way we see ourselves, is in part formed by us.  But then, we should also admit that people and things and circumstances form our identity, too.
For instance we have... 
     a)    a national identity. We are Americans and you would be different if you were born in South                 Africa.  
     b)   a cultural identity - cowboys/girl - What is Wyoming culture now?
     c)   a gender identity - male-female-confused
     d)   a racial identity - different shades of brown - human race
     e)   a social identity - the "we", the "they" cliques...the people who do this, the people who do that.
     f)   a religious identity - I am a Christian first. I am also a Lutheran.

Our identity is always in flux; It's always changing.
    a)   I look in the mirror and find that I am not a 16 year old boy with acne.
    b)   I see pictures of myself as a 1 year old.  That was me, that's not my identity today.

Sometimes our identity is...
    a)   bound up in the past (he showed a photo of high school football)
    b)   bound up in the's how I will look when I get serious about my exercise program               (he showed a photo of Arnold Schwartzenegger during his body building days)
For the Christian, our identity is with Christ. What I am concerned about is our identity today, right now and into the future. I want you to have a positive identity of yourself as a follower of Christ. Things in your past may not be so good but with God "right now" is a new opportunity. God is good at forgiveness, new chances and moving ahead with a positive Christian identity.

You know Jesus had/has an identity, too. We are at the beginning of the season of Epiphany, as season in which the identity of Jesus is being revealed.,,
   a) Baptism - my beloved Son
   b) Transfiguration - my beloved Son, listen to him
   c) Jesus revealed as the Son of God

(I have to tell you that there were a lot of pictures shown as Mike talked about each point. The picture that went with an  ascension  point was of Jesus up high with people down below looking up at him. I was holding Elise and when that photo went on the screen she had several comments, "Why is Jesus in the sky? Everyone can see his feet!"  I just thought I'd share that with you.)

So, let's look at some aspects of the identity of Jesus. First, he had a national identity. Jesus was a Jew/Hebrew, a follower of the law. Jewish law established how you felt about men's and women's roles and how you felt about Gentiles.

Jesus had a cultural identity. Time and culture had an influence on who Jesus was. Some were scandalized that Jesus was from Nazareth of Galilee. Even one of Jesus' own disciples said, "Can anything good come of out Nazareth?" 

Jesus had a gender identity. Jesus was a man. can you imagine Jesus as a woman rabbi in that culture? What a shock that would have been.

Jesus had a social identity. He was a member of the carpenter's union. This didn't win him any "cool points" as he tried to esta
blish himself as a rabbi/teacher. The term of derision was, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?"

One of the most important pieces of the identity of Jesus is as Son of God. Throughout history that has been the struggle... Jesus, divine AND human? The confession of the scriptures and the church is unchanged, Jesus is God's Son,

However, Jesus more frequently refers to himself as "the Son of Man" which can refer both to his humanity and to a figure who will come at the end times.

Now, I want you to think of the identity of Jesus in a different way., in a way in which we can identify.  Jesus was part of a family. Families form our identity, for the good or for the bad, functional or dysfunctional.

Jesus lived under a foreign oppressive government. The Jews didn't like living under Roman domination. Some thought Jesus might lead a revolt against Rome. He didn't, but they did 66-70AD.

Jesus was a sage, a wise man.

Jesus was a social reformer. He was known to talk with women, blessing children and going into Gentile land.

Jesus was a sender. He told his disciples to go into the villages, go and make disciples.

Jesus was a compassionate one...they were like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus was an angry one. He cleansed temple, turned over tables.

Jesus was a non-violent one. "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword."

Jesus was a chastizer. He was especially hard on the disciples... "You of little faith, how long must I be with you?"

Jesus was an encourager, "Your faith has made you longer have I called you servants, I call you are the light of the world."

Finally, we have an identity in this Christ, this Jesus, this Son of God.

Our identity as Christians is formed by the Word and the Holy Spirit. Who is God forming you to be today? We need to kick the negative stuff out of our lives. We can let the negative pastor form who we will be today or tomorrow. The devil, the world and our own sinful self may whisper that we are "no good" or "we failed in the past" but we can't listen to those voices.

God has a good place for you and a good future. With God's help, maybe you will be an encourager, a compassionate one. 

I don't know what the future holds but if we listen to him, to the beloved Son, well then, good things are coming our way. We are living out our true identity. We are part of God's family. God loves us, forgives us and gives us second chances. He knows our true identity.

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