Homily: July 17, 2016
July 17, 2016 Rev. Cindi Brickson
Identity and Christian Discipleship
If I ask each person here: “who are you?”, I think it likely that we might hear a wide variety of responses. When I was a child, I wanted to be a mom. With 12 kids…and we see how that worked out Also a priest, and a pediatrician. Again, my want then is not quite my reality today, but parts of it were right on. We just heard our children share some of their hopes as well. They also held up of us a number of ways that, even when we are young, we learn to know who we are: through our family stories, through our experiences, through the hopes and dreams of our parents, through our own imaginations and through the play and work we do. It’s a pretty complicated question: “who are you?” or “Who will you be?” Merriam Webster tells us: “identity” is who someone is : the name of a person : the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others. My identity is part of the boundary between us, is part of what defines were I begin and where I end. It is who and how I am that is uniquely me.
Our identities are complex and include layers, and sometimes a time component, so who I am might tell you that my identity is something like this: I am the oldest daughter, a sister, a wife and mother. I am a chaplain and a teacher and a priest. I am a life long learner. All of these differing concepts are true for me, are my identity - or part of it, Some of them have changed over time, or could change in the future. Parts of my identity are corporate as well; they are who we are, together. Most of us who are here today have an agreement about being Christians, about following Christ. We agree to gather here on our Sabbath and to pray together. We agree to gather at the table and share communion, to feast together.
Scripture today is an opportunity to explore identity as Godly people and as disciples of Christ. At first look, our gospel story today seems a bit of a competition. Only on sister is held up as “the one who is doing it right”. The other sister is scolded for not approaching her time with Jesus in the same way. Those of us who have siblings can surely hear in that some rivalry. I had brothers growing up. Only one of us ever won at monopoly at a time. I recognize all of those feelings - of winning, and of losing. Winning felt good. Losing, not so much. Does anyone else here know this experience?
But what if this story is really not about competing for a specific, good relationship with Jesus? What if this story, like lasts weeks’ story, its really about living into our own authentic calls to discipleship? What if, instead of distilling the wisdom of the story into a narrowly defined way of being, of good acts or doing right, we use it to open the way to a number of ways of possibilities of being correct?
We have some good tools for that, and other scripture might also be useful: Recall, last week was the story of the Good Samaritan. Its a well known story, and one that Vant boiled down to the values found in Micah 6:8…. “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does our God require: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (That is to play fair, to be nice, and to hold hands with God.) Which sounds pretty easy, until you apply it to the principals of discipleship revealed in these stories. The Good Samaritan call us to act on behalf of those in need, not matter how different they are from us. … no matter their identity, or ours …..no matter how much we are uncomfortable with the differences. Because being a disciple is about action some times, about doing the right thing.
The story in our gospel today is often talked about as a lesson on hospitality and how important it was in the time time of Jesus. The first reading would support this. Hospitality in the time of Abraham was a life and death matter for those who traveled. Even so, today’s story seems to favor sitting and listening, being rather than doing. Being with Jesus rather than providing hospitably. This must surely have been a shocking lesson for the early church.
Do or be? Discipleship is hard work, and can be confusing.
What is the same in these stories is the call to live into our identity as Christians. We are to understand ourselves for who we are in relationship to Christ. To work in that relationship is to be our best selves.
This is really personal work. Just as each of our children, even at their young ages, is able to tell us who they might be in their adult lives, each of us needs to work through that. And each one of us here is going to to have a different identity. Yes, we will share some parts. And yes, we will have some differences. We can’t all be Mary at the same time. We cannot all be Martha in the same moment. We don't all need to be the Good Samaritan just like each other. But we do need to be the Mary or Martha or the Good Samaritan, as we are each called to that. We do have a call to doing the work of discipleship, as well as the call to sitting at the feel of Jesus.
I cannot say exactly how that will work out for anyone in this room, except for myself. Only I, in relationship with Christ, can know exactly what that means for me right here and right now. Only you in relationship with Christ, can know exactly what that means for you. But being a disciple means being in that relationship. It means that we are called to discern for ourselves who we are - what our identities are - and how we are to bring that to a relationship with Christ.
We don’t get to sing
In the morning when I rise…give me Jesus
Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus…you can have all this world, give me Jesus
If we cannot or will not bring ourselves to that relationship. Todays Scripture asks us to consider who we are. In our very core selves, who are we? What is our identity? And then, to bring that authentic Self to our relationship with Christ. When we each bring that real “me” to discipleship, we know when to be - and when to do. When we are aware, our doing will follow on our being; we can leave competition behind because we won’t need it to find the way. It is worth nothing that even the good and necessary work of hospitality is not easily sustained if it is not grounded in the reality of sitting and listening. We need to do and to be. Today we are invited to bring ourselves along, to sit and listen, and then to do. Today we are invited to live:
You can have all this world, give me Jesus.
May it be so.