As we begin a new program year as a congregation, it is a good time to visit some foundational aspect of our life as Christians. The two readings this Sunday will be from Ephesians. The church in Ephesus was a lot like the Gathering as they were a new worshiping community struggling for an understanding of what God was calling them to do and how they were called to witness to his word. Imbedded within this understanding is the theme of Identity. Identity for the early Christians was important since they were a new sect and still coming to understand who they were.
In the pericope that I picked for this Sunday, Paul engages a discourse on our life in Christ. He uses the image of us being a new creation. This is an important theme throughout much of Paul’s writing and the New Testament because it requires action on our part. For some that action is from unbelief to belief, but for many, it is recognition of the constant recreation that God is doing inside of us. This understanding becomes foundational for the second part of the pericope that explores how we are to structure this new life.
For many early Christians, this new identity offered a different way of life that provided more meaning and often gave hope where there was none. Here we see Paul laying out to the community that when we make the choice to be Christian, we make a choice for an alternative lifestyle.
I totally understand this! Whenever I tell someone that I am a pastor, usually they apologize for something or begin to act a little different. The first time I noticed this was when I was in college, and though I had not really changed other then making a declaration, my pronouncement made me represent something different to the people in my community. Interestingly, as I made my way to seminary I was faced with what my life would be in that my “Job” as a pastor was not something that I would ever be able to escape or ignore; in fact, after working in the “faith business,” as one of my friends says, I realize that I am always on.
For me, the initial choice to be a Christian and the choice to be a minister were fairly easy. As the text suggests, I gave myself over to God. Nevertheless, structuring and maintaining my life in faith can be a struggle creating a life journey that has not always been as easy! In fact, it has been and is incredibly hard at times. However, by accepting this life I have made choices and decisions that at times put me at odds with society and even times with the churches I serve, but ultimately, it is a result of discernment and love.
As we begin the new program year in the church, we move forward with full force living into our identity as Christians. The difficult part is allowing the time for discernment and growth.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen