Who Are You? November 10, 2019

 Proper 27C’19

10 November 2019

Job 19.23-27, Lk 20.27-38

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

 

“Who are you – who – who – who -who – I really want to know?”  Asks the rock group, The Who in their song “Who Are You.” As Americans we often identify ourselves by what we do, in fact at social gatherings after being newly introduced to someone we usually ask them, “What do you do?” We tend to get our identities by stitching together a patchwork quilt from the roles we play, we talk about being a banker, or an insurance salesperson, or that we are parents, or spouses. For sure, our roles are really important to us, our families, and our communities but to make them the source of Ultimate Identity doesn’t seem to be working very well.

The ultimate answer to the question of “who we are”, can be answered by acknowledging, “whose we are.” To arrive at our identities we have two choices, we can either begin with our own egos and its orbiting satellites of career, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. or we can begin from our Ultimate Reality at the center of our being, where we are known and loved as a child of God. This is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of “Who are you?” and it is so easy to lose sight of this fact.

When operating out of an egocentric place, we identify ourselves by our roles, rather than our relationship as a Child of God. When we are operating out of our Ultimate Identity we say, “I am a child of God who happens to be a (fill in the blanks), banker, machinist, mother, father, democrat or republican.” Whatever or whomever we allow to inhabit our center becomes our Ultimate Identity and determines the priorities of our lives and the way we treat others.I like the church sign I saw the other day that said: “Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted.” When our identity is off center our words and actions are as well.

Jesus, arrives with his disciples and they run into a group of Sadducees. And who were the Sadducees, they were a branch of Judaism that did not believe in resurrection from the dead (that is why they are sad-you-see). They were bitter rivals with the other major branch of Judaism, the Pharisees, who did believe in the resurrection of the dead.  To these folks their theological beliefs was where they found their sense of Ultimate Identity. So, it is no surprise to see what the Sadducees do in their encounter with Jesus, they immediately ask him a loaded question to see where he stood on the issue that was the only issue as far as the Sadducees were concerned - a question about the resurrection. We can see by how the question was framed that they were already biased against him; they confront him with a hypothetical question about a woman who had been widowed and remarried seven times with seven brothers: “In the resurrection, whose wife will the woman be?” For the Sadducee this was a black and white issue, there was only one right answer – to totally brush aside the story about the widow and say “Guys, I don’t believe in the resurrection.” Of course, Jesus answered the question the wrong way by going into detail about what life would be like in the afterlife and that people would no longer marry and they would be as angels and children of God – brothers and sisters. Jesus was pointing them toward a new identity rather than a ‘for or against argument’ he pointed them toward an eternal relationship with God.

Jesus wasn’t self-centered, he didn’t have his ego enthroned at his center but he had God on the throne of the seat of his soul, and as a result his answer and behavior that day came from a very different place from the Sadducees. The place of the ego splits the world in two. Life is about winners and losers, dominators and the dominated, the oppressors and the oppressed, the powerful, and the powerless, folks who are right and folks who are wrong. With both the Sadducees and the Pharisees it was party over people, right belief over right practice. But Jesus, the Son of God comes from the place of a heavenly family where we are all children of the One God where there was different way – the Way of Love.

Recently there was an NFL football game in Dallas where George W. Bush and Ellen DeGeneres sat next to each other in a skybox. When a photo of Ellen and the 43rd President surfaced in various media outlets, Ellen was not expecting the negative and vitriolic reactions this would draw from her friends who were more politically liberal. Ellen responded by saying, “I’m friends with George Bush” and added, When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way I do. I mean be kind to everyone.”[1] Ellen’s place seems to me to be a good place to start from.

In a world split in two, Jesus the Prince of Peace, points us away from either/or perspectives and offers to us a third way – the Way of Love. Now, this is not the sappy romanticized kind of love that we see on our screens during a feel-good movie. No, this is a generous love that came at the highest price of all - the death of God’s Son for the sins of the whole world. This is not a ‘go-along-to-get-along’ kind of love – this kind of love is hard work and requires not only courage but faith to remove our dualistic lenses and to see the most distasteful as my brother or sister who is somewhere, however lost and fledgling, on the same road of redemption that we hope we are on.

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in his amazing homily at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle nailed it when he said: “We must discover love. The redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”  

Who are you? A child of God

What’s it about? It Really is All about Love! Amen!



[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/11/ellen-degeneress-defense-her-friendship-with-george-w-bush-was-all-about-her/

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