Readings for the day (Christ the King – Sunday, November 20, 2016):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Often at funerals, I’ll list off many of the various titles that our brother or sister in Christ was known for. I’ll say that they were a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a friend. Throughout our lives we hold any number of titles that describe our various vocations. Our line of work, our hobbies, our interests all contribute to describing who we are and form our identity. Some aspects of our identity are created without our say or input; such as being an aunt, uncle, sibling, or grandparent. Other parts of our identity come about by the choices that we make. We choose to be a farmer, a nurse, a teacher, a pastor, a business owner. And then there are parts of our identity that are self-inflicted such as being a Minnesota sports fan.
All of these aspects of our identity can and do change over the years. Careers change, people retire, family members die, and hopes of championships for our beloved Vikings continue to slip away. Our identities are always changing – life changes inevitably effect and change our identity. Now what happens when your identity is completely centered in something that changes? If the whole reason you are who you are is because you are a parent raising your kids, what happens when all the kids graduate and move out of the house? Or if your entire identity is centered around being a wife or a husband. What happens when your spouse is longer with us? When our identity is centered in things that change it becomes very difficult to continue when change occurs.
People believed that Jesus was going to be their new king that would save them from the Roman oppression. They centered their identity on this miracle worker who they followed around the countryside who they believed would save them. They even welcomed Him into Jerusalem with some pretty high praise, waving palm branches and laying coats down in front of Him. But when He didn’t form an uprising to overthrow the Romans, and instead landed himself nailed to a tree for all to see, there was huge disappointment for all.
As a congregation, we also have an identity. If I asked you to describe our congregation would you be able to describe who we are in a sentence or two? It might not be as easy as you think because the identity of our congregation has been changing over the years. Who we are today is not who we were 10 years ago. We’ve had members leave and new members join. We’ve had beloved members die and we’ve welcomed new members into God’s family. Anytime we have someone leave or come, our congregation changes, our identity changes.
All of the identities that we have whether it is family, career, hobby, interest, or political identity, are all temporary identities that can and do change over time. There is another identity however, one that never changes over time. In fact it is the most important identity that we have – child of God. Your identity is formed by being a child of God; one of the shepherd’s sheep, someone in the King’s court. All other identities are subject to change; except this one. Your identity as a child of God will never change. No matter what happens in this world. No matter who lives or who dies. No matter what happens with your family or your career. No matter who is or is not elected president, this very important identity as ‘Child of God’ does not change. No matter what happens in this world, no matter what changes, you will always be first and foremost a child of God, claimed through the waters of baptism.
Likewise, even though our congregation changes – pastors come and go, members come and go, beloved members die and babies are baptized – as Paul says, Jesus is the head of the church. No matter how big or small this congregation. No matter how much money we have. No matter how many children we have in our congregation. No matter what, Jesus has always been and will always be the head of the whole church, and specifically He will be the head of this church. As a congregation, our first and foremost identity is that we are the body of Christ called to go and tell all of those in our community who are not involved in a congregation and who probably don’t believe in God that there is an identity out there for them that will never change. Even in a world that is full of unpredictable changes, there is one thing that will never change; something that they can have hope in.
And not only will this identity never change, but it will also save you. On the Day of Judgment, God isn’t going to ask what your career was or who your family members were or how much money you had. Instead He’s going to ask for you to make a defense for all of the sins you are on trial for. None of our earthly identities will hold up in God’s court.
But with your first and primary identity as a child of God, that will hold up. None of the things in this world will be able to save you, no matter what people try to tell you. Donald Trump will not be able to save you. Hillary Clinton will not be able to save you. The only one who has the power to save you from sin, death and devil is the one who is your King, the one who told the criminal hanging next to Him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This is your King, the Messiah of God. Amen.
© 2016 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.