“If individuality and autonomy were the ways to happiness, this would be the happiest country in the history of mankind. We can live where we want, go where we want, have whatever hobbies we want, and do what we want. But instead of our being happy, therapists’ offices are absolutely packed and people all around us are wondering ‘Is this all there is?’ Our ultimate well-being is found, not in freedoms, but in relationships.” – Kevin Kinghorn, Professor of Philosophy
What is your identity as a unique person? Is it your name, your characteristics, and your preferences? Is it your job? Maybe it includes where you came from and those cultural leftovers?
For most of the world today and throughout history, a person’s identity had more to do with their place within their society and their families. Examples of this include the use of the “ –ovich” style of surname in places like Russia. So if your name was Peter Ivanovich, it meant Peter, son of Ivan. Another example might be found in the Far East where their names are said with the surname given first. You are first and foremost a representative of the family, the group. Only afterward are you seen as an individual. From there we might move to places like England where your surname might be the town you are from.
Today, in this part of the world where so many of us move from place to place, we have largely lost the sense of community and of belonging to a place or a group. Unfortunately, we were created by God with an innate need for just such a belonging.
Jesus calls us to use our imaginations to imagine what our life could be like if we were followers of his and, rather than using lists of characteristics to define ourselves, we folded the stories of our lives into the story of Christ and his people. Jesus’ commandments to his followers were all about relationships. Love God, Love each other, go and teach, go and make disciples, go and witness – all of these are centered around being in relationship.
Of course, we all are somewhat different. Scripture even talks about this – all of us having different Spiritual Gifts. However, all these gifts were given by the Holy Spirit for use in building up each other and the church, not for our own individual desires.
I pray that we all may find ways to join together in this place, in this community, and fold our stories into the story of Christ’s church and the story of Parker United Methodist Church. Both have long, interesting histories and both promise to have exciting and compelling futures. God bless!