First Presbyterian Church of Joplin I.D.

I.D.

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Luke 23:33-43

33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Like many Americans, I went to renew my passport this week. Don’t worry, I’m not moving to Canada as some kind of political protest. We’re heading down to the Dominican Republic in January to help install a clean water system in a school in the Jarabacoa region in the central highlands. Passports allow us to travel all over the world, and some have stamps from all over the globe. Of course, the most important imprint is the one on the front cover. It is our citizenship, and all the other stamps are just places we are passing through.

What is our ultimate identity? It’s a question children whisper, teens shout, and adults groan. Who am I? It’s a fair question to ask today; who are we as the Church? Are we a group that does worship? Mission? Fellowship? Are we more?

Identity matters. We’ve heard a lot about it in the news over the past few months. There is talk about creating a national registry of Muslims. This goes against our nation’s foundational principals, and we must choose faith in the face of so much fear.

Missouri just passed a law requiring proper identification to vote, but my identity is not on my I.D. card. My driver’s license has my height, weight, date of birth, and current address. There’s a picture from many years ago, and a stamp saying I’m an organ donor. This is all information, but it’s not my identity.

Our I.D. has to be more than the particulars of our day-to-day or what’s going to be on our obituary, or else, what is the point?

I was driving through town this past week and thought I saw a Cadillac El Dorado with its big set of tailfins on the back? You remember these types of cars from the 50’s and 60’s. Is there anything more superfluous than tailfins? I see the Jesus fish (ICTHUS) on plenty of cars driving around town.

Having an ICTHUS “Jesus” Fish on the back of my car doesn’t make me a Christian any more than having a tailfins on the back make me a shark. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

If our I.D. is not what is listed on our I.D. or the back of our cars, then what is it, and where can it be found?

It’s “Reign of Christ” Sunday. It’s the last worship service of our liturgical year, and we will start it over again next week with the beginning of Advent.

Jesus had a sign placed above his head on the cross. It read, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. It was his Identity. Our King

Colossians 1:11-20

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

You don’t need a passport to travel to Alabama, but it’s definitely a culture shock. I had to learn a whole new litany of phrases like: “Fixin’ To,” “I Reckon,” and the ubiquitous, “Bless your heart.” I remember the first time someone asked me, “Who are your people?” I didn’t have any idea what she meant. What do your parents do? Where are they from? Perhaps, most important, what church holds your membership? This last question could be the difference between being welcomed in and being left on the front porch.

It might sound odd for me to say this, but our church is not our identity. Our identity is not about any of us individually. Yes you are unique and “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but it is the potter and not the clay that has the final say about purpose.

If it feels like you don’t know your identity, perhaps the best place to start is the hard truth that it’s not about you. “The human heart is a factory of idols” (John Calvin.)

Take a look at Luke’s account of the passion. There is all kinds of heart-wrenching behavior: Denying, Betraying, Mocking, Jeering, Abusing, Killing.

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Even from the cross, forgive them.

The American Experiment requires the peaceful transfer of power following an election. Our democracy absolutely relies on this foundational principal between one president and the next.

There is a transfer of power happening in today’s passage, but crucifixion isn’t peaceful; it is violent, cruel, and deadly. The cross is a transfer of power from mockery to forgiveness, from violence to harmony, from death to resurrection. “20…And through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

Wonderful – Tragic…Beautiful – Scandalous

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24, NRSV.)

Nobody

We don’t get the king we want. We don’t get the king we deserve. We get the King we need.

The author of Colossians lays it out…

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.

Our ultimate identity is not in our photo ID. It is in our maker.

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;

Imago Dei – Reflect the Divine spark God already placed inside you.

What does your heavenly passport look like? What’s on the front of it? We live in the United States, but our citizenship is in God’s Kingdom. What do we value more?

Once we begin to see our true identity, then we can begin living into it.

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

When we discover whose we are, then we’ll be free. You belong to a King and a Kingdom. Now, go and live like you believe it.

 

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