Blogging Towards Sunday January 10, 2009
Who are we and how do we define ourselves? In a sense that's the question that I hear this passage about the baptism of Jesus and the conclusion of John the Baptizer's ministry ask. In a world in which we're most often defined by our job, our wealth (or lack of), our passport, or our education. In a world in which our identity can be stolen from our mailbox or our credit card, Christianity offers a different path. We are because we're in relationship.
John the Baptizer knows who he is. He's the preparer, coming before the promised one. He doesn't have to do it all, merely be faithful to his vocation, to collaborate with God in preparing the way by speaking the truth to power, standing for justice, calling all persons to renew with God. That's why he is arrested and killed. He remains faithful to that call, that vision - his identity.
In Luke's telling of the Gospel, this is where we meet the adult Jesus. He comes to be baptized, not because he's a sinner, but I think because of his relationship with John. John prepares the way for Jesus who is now there. He is unique, not so much by his birth, trade, genetic makeup, nationality or smarts - rather it's his intimate relationship with God, who calls him "beloved son". Jesus knows who he is and lives from that identity, in to that identity.
I find as a foreigner living abroad I'm often asked - like this week - for my identification, to prove who I am and if I have the right to be here. I seem to never be able to quite get away from that, having to prove myself. In a sense we do that every day in life: through our work, our studies, what we can and have accomplished - what we haven't. In stark contrast to our society of works and earned gold stars, God in Christ invites us to discover identity in relationship: that we have value because we are, because we're in relationship with God and with one another. How might life be different if we approached daily events and ministry with the perspective that we don't have to prove ourselves but rather simply be honest and authentic, responding to what God has already done in our own lives? I've become a fanatic about shredding our recycling, fearful that our papers will be taken and our identities stolen. In such a culture of fear and mistrust, what happens to the faith that gives us our identity? Do we start to hide it too out of fear of being misunderstood, misviewed or rejected? What if we risked sharing our identity as opposed to living in fear that it will be stolen?