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Who Am I?

Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do about it?

The Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, June 2nd, A.D.2013 – Rev’d Elijah White

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Welcome to Ordinary Time. In the historic Church’s ‘sanctification of Time’ since last December 2nd we’ve followed the events of Jesus’ ministry in order, from Advent’s preparation for His coming through His Incarnation at Christmas, His manifestation to the Gentiles in Epiphanytide, His wilderness fasting during Lent, His Last Supper and Crucifixion in Holy Week, His glorious Resurrection at Easter, His Ascension return-home, His sending of the Holy Ghost to empower us His Church on Whitsunday, all celebrated together in one big summary rejoicing last week on Trinity Sunday.

We’ve had quite a time following Jesus in His ministry, six months of extra-ordinary events -- today we begin what the Church calls “ordinary” time, six months with no big biblical Gospel events, just us folks, you and I slogging on through the mud as ordinary Christians trying to follow and serve Jesus in our own ordinary lives, so today our Altar cloths go from exciting white or red to ordinary green, the color of growth. For six months we’ve followed Jesus’ ministry – now it’s up to us.

So today is a good day to take stock of our selves, to pause to consider the big questions that we need to wrestle with for our soul’s health, questions basic to our lives: [1] Who am I? [2] Why am I here? and [3] What should I be doing about it?

First, [1] Who am I? By the time as children we’re able to ask and start to answer that question we already know a good bit – I’m “me,” and I’m a member of my immediate family and the household in which I live, whether single parent or multi-generational, with other blood-kin scattered around the country. That’s my starting relational identity in a growing web of relationships. As I mature I add more facets to my self-understanding as I become part of a neighborhood, a school, a team or activity group – I have some friends who’re closer than others, and some people I try to avoid. I’m still me, but that “me” is influenced by the many different relationships I have, some of them very different indeed.

All this is true of everyone – for a Christian there’s an extra fact, that I’m a child of God. All the other relationships that shape and help me know who “I” am are horizontal, mortal (look it up), limited to this earth around me as long as they and I both tread it – only my identity as a child of God is vertical, un-limited, im-mortal, transcending the fallible physical limitations with which we struggle here below that will eventually do us in.

Don’t be misled by such casual clichés as, “We’re all children of God” – that is not true. Every human being is born as part of God’s creation, a creature of God just as are horses and whales and dogs and cats, but the Bible is quite clear on the vast difference between God’s ‘creation’ and God’s children – the Holy Gospel according to S. John, chapter 1, verse 12: “to all who received Him {Jesus Christ}, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Holy Baptism is an adoption service, a rite in which we are adopted by God as His children – meaning that’s a happy state we did not enjoy before Holy Baptism in which we are made His children “by adoption and Grace.”

That’s very clear: we are all born of the flesh to natural, mortal, limited, life – God, who loves all of us His creatures, offers super-natural un-limited life to those of us who will believe, and trust, and accept, and love Him in return, and so are born of the Spirit… It’s our choice -- and we will live forever with the consequences of this our own free choice. Decisions matter – actions have consequences, many of them unintended.

Who am I? Amongst other things, in the words of the old hymn we’ll sing on June 23rd, as a Christian I am an “heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood” – it’ll take me the rest of this life, and beyond, to fully understand these glorious terms, but I’m working on it, with His help – so….

[2] Why am I here? The Shorter Westminster Catechism answers this in its very first question: “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.” This is what we’re here for, to give glory and thanks to God who loved us into being, who loved us enough to give His only Son Jesus Christ to die for us and to rise again for us, and who continues to love us still, however poorly we respond, however ungrateful or self-centered we may be. Don’t fall into the ego-centrism of despair – remember we’re to “enjoy” God! A grim-faced church-goer hasn’t heard the Word. However wonderful we may fantasize we may be, however awful we may fear we are, however far we may stray from the peace He so much wants to give us, still, God loves us – so…….

[3] What am I going to do about that, what’s my appropriate response? Well, Saint Paul addresses his longest letter, Romans chapter 1 verse 7, “to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” – just as First Corinthians chapter 1 verse 2 is addressed to those “called to be saints” – so you and I are called [by God!] to be saints – which doesn’t just mean being ‘well-behaved.’ “Saint” comes from a Latin word meaning “set apart for God’s use,” which is what we’re meant and invited to be, that’s what we’re here for. That’s our “calling,” our vocation – as we’ll sing in a moment, “And I mean to be one too.” God doesn’t expect us to be “successful,” but He does call us to be faithful. In John 6 verse 28 people ask Jesus “’What must we do, to be doing the works [plural] of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work [singular] of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’”

Believe what? John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Given the fact that God’s whole creation of us and relationship to us is from love, then loving Him in return is our only appropriate response, and what we call Heaven is not only logical but inevitable. Think about it: if you love someone you want them to love you in return, right? You want to be with them, right? As much as possible, right?

Well, precisely because God loves us He wants to be with us – so He (naturally) wants us to be with Him – as much as possible – and, [Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27] since “with God all things are possible,” then for Him “as much as possible” means forever. Right? And if you and I love Him more than any-thing in this transitory world then we want to be with Him too – so Heaven is the perfect fit for what both we and God want. Logical. Right?

I can’t imagine what Heaven – eternity with God and those I love who are or will be with Him – what Heaven might be like, but I do hope and look forward to finding out more…

in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.