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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christianity: It's a Question of Identity

Who are you? Does any answer to that question ever get at "you?" If we are going to ever answer it, we might need some guidelines. For example, are you the sum of the things you did and do; or, are you your ideas, thoughts, and aspirations, some of which you have never done. (My dad always wanted to be a cowboy...he was an accountant and now he's a golfer. So, was he ever a cowboy?) What relationships count in who you are? One of my earliest mentors said of Dr. Samuel Johnson (the 18th Century British intellectual who wrote the first English dictionary) that he "was more my father than my own father is." How can that be?

Well, since I turned 50, we are going to be spending a good deal of time this year trying to answer that question. A least once a month I hope to address the issue of my identity from some angle. I have touched on that previously of course, most of you know that I cherish my Swedish heritage...I love blue and yellow.  Many of you also know that part of my identity is based on taking my Swedish ancestry, translating to my birthplace, and getting my love for this color scheme. That's all part of my identity, and in both cases were somewhat not chosen by me. I mean, I didn't pick my great-grandparents, and although I could have chosen other football teams, when you grow up on the other side of a city from one, you tend to get influenced at an early age.

There are some parts of my identity that I have consciously chosen. For example, I prefer to drink this.                       There were other choices, and I didn't even start with that one (I drank this one for the first 15 years.) So there are lots of questions that go into our identities.

For us here at Prairie Table, however, our "Christian" identity is of paramount importance. And the first question is: did I choose it for myself, or was it chosen for me? Am I a Christian because I chose it, much like I chose my favorite bourbon; or, am I a Christian because it was "just in the genes," or just in the water," much like  how I got my Swedish ancestry? How you answer that question makes all the difference in the world.

Now, before you get too excited to answer, remember, that for 1800 years Christians believed that our Christian identity was "given" to us. God gave it to you, or not, and the most you could do was learn to suffer in silence that you weren't a Christian. Christian identity was like my Swedish ancestry: it was given to you.

Over the last 200 years or so, a change has occurred that has allowed people to make choices about things. Some people have argued that you can decide to be a Christian, can actually choose to have that part of your identity. So just like I get to choose which bourbon I drink, you can choose what religion you want to be part of your identity (or, increasingly, if you even want religion as part of your identity.)

But there is one more thing to consider here: what is the "identity" of God? If you say that we choose God through Christianity for our identity, does that mean that God chooses you? If you say that "God chooses me" you are pretty much saying that God wants you to be part of God's identity. Think about that for a second....thinking.....thinking...thinking (this is "thoughts" from the Prairie Table, remember?)

The reason why Christians held for centuries that God chooses our Christian identity for us is because they believed God loved us so much that God wanted us to be part of God's identity. To be a Christian is a rather trivial piece of your and my identity, but it is rather crucial to God. At Prairie Table our Christian identity is important not because it means so much to us...but rather because it means so much to God.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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