Let me tell you about our grandchildren. Four became ours by birth; one became ours by adoption. Deborah and Dan were at the hospital when Mattie was born. We were there when they brought her home and welcomed her into our family. We celebrate October 24 as the day Mattie was born. But our daughter also celebrates December 20 as the day the judge declared that Mattie is officially ours. Here’s what she wrote on Facebook this year.
“Happy Gotcha Day! This was the day the Judge declared that Mattie is stuck with us forever. No take backs. Love this girl like crazy. Can’t wait to see who she becomes. God is good.”
Who Tells You Who You Are?
Last Sunday churches that follow the traditional worship calendar celebrated the baptism of Jesus when Jesus heard “a voice from heaven” that spoke directly to him, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) The same voice spoke to Isaiah, “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
In remembering our own baptism, we listened for that same voice speaking directly to each of us, “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter. I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”
When the baptismal liturgy calls us to “remember your baptism and be grateful,” we are invited to hear again the voice God saying, “This is your ‘Gotcha Day.’ You are my beloved Son, my beloved daughter. I have called you by name. You are mine. No take backs.” That’s who we really are.
But there’s more…
Who We Are To Become
In her “Gotcha Day” post, Deborah not only celebrated something that happened in the past. She also looked toward the future when she wrote: “Love this girl like crazy. Can’t wait to see who she becomes.”
The voice that names us as children of God is also the voice that declares who we are called to become. Our identity as sons and daughters of God defines the way we are called to live.
Shortly after Mattie was born, her then ten-year-old cousin asked her mother, “Will Mattie grow up to look like Aunt Deb and Uncle Dan?” That’s an intriguing question because Mattie is black. Her birth parents are African-American. Julia’s mother answered, “Mattie won’t look like Aunt Deb and Uncle Dan, but as she grows up with them she will become like them in a lot of other ways.”
We don’t have a clue as to what Jesus actually looked like. None of us will grow up to look like him, but as we live with him, as we follow him, as we listen to his words, as we surrender our way to his way, we are called to become like him in other ways. We are called to think the way Jesus thought, to love the way Jesus loved, to live the way Jesus lived.
Do Christians Look Like Jesus?
The most disturbing thing to me about what’s happening in our country today is that so many people who claim to be Christians simply don’t look, speak or act like Jesus.
- I’m, disturbed by how easily people say they believe the bible but act as if they have never read the Sermon on the Mount.
- I’m disturbed by how easily we say we believe the gospel but never allow what Jesus actually said to make a difference in the way we act, the way we relate to people who are different than we are, the way we vote.
- I’m disturbed by the way people who pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth place a higher priority on the political and economic values of the kingdoms of this earth when it comes to their politics.
- I’m disturbed by the disturbing question that Jesus asks every one of us, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do the things I do?” (Luke 6:46)
And the world takes notice of the conflict between what we say we believe and the way we live. Take, for example, the way supposedly “evangelical” people have been drawn to Ted Cruz.
David Brooks sounded like a gospel preacher when he described Cruz’s rhetoric as “pagan brutalism.”
Ted Cruz is now running strongly among evangelical voters, especially in Iowa. But in his career and public presentation Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace…Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy… Cruz manufactures an atmosphere of menace in which there is no room for compassion, for moderation, for anything but dismantling and counterattack….He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate.
The God who names us as God’s beloved children beside the waters of baptism in worship is the same God who calls us to live like Jesus in the world. It not only tells us who we are; it defines who we are to become.
So, here are the critical questions for every baptized follower of Jesus:
- Am I more like Jesus today than I was yesterday?
- Is my life more deeply formed by what Jesus said, the way Jesus lived today than it was six weeks ago?
- Am I more loving, more compassionate, more faithful today than I was a year ago?
- Does the way I speak, relate to other people, use my resources, and vote bear witness to the will, way and words of Jesus?
- If not, why not? And what steps do I need to take to become more like him?
Remembering “Gotcha Day,”