Think back, as far as you can in your memory, to what might have been your first sense of self. Who were you in relationship to the world around you? What was your primary identity?
I imagine that my first sense of identity was as sister. To my older brother, busy building and playing, whose world was invaded by my arrival. And soon after to my sister, so close that we were babies together. So many (cloth!) diapers. Still so close….
As we grow up, we assume other identities. Most assigned. Others chosen. I got married. Became a social worker. Had two children. Settled down in a college town.
“Jew or Greek… slave or free…male and female*…” Galatians 3:28
Race, ethnicity, religion, and skin color shape our experience of the world. Economics and social status determine our options. Cultures assign us a gendered role. These categories define and divide us, deep in our psyche, most powerfully when unrecognized.
How in this world can we be one? One being defined as a relational experience. How can we be in relationship, when our deepest identities divide us? Paul uses the analogy of clothing. We need to put on (daily) our new identity. In Jesus the Messiah we are all children of God. Through faith. Not through any of our other identities.
Often, in the Welcome at NCF, someone reminds us that we are invited to come to God (and to church) as we are. Whether joyful or despondent, eager or reluctant. We don’t have to figure it out before we get there; however and whoever we are, Jesus is calling us. In all our identities- assigned, embraced or rejected- God welcomes us.
The question is whether we can welcome each other. Whether we can (feel that) welcome ourselves. As we are. In all of our identities. To worship the God of the universe. To serve each other, our community, our Lord. And to be changed in this process:
clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness. Eph. 4:24 (CEB)
Justice. The signifier of the image of God. What we as new people are about. So that we might reflect true holiness. A high calling. Not native to any of my identities. Creation is an ongoing process.
May we embrace our new identity- as self, each other, and together- clothing ourselves daily in our new person, continuing to be created, living lives of justice that reflect God’s image and the true holiness modeled by Jesus the Messiah.
*for more on “created male and female” click here to read or listen.