Scripture: Mark 1:4-11
In the last 78 years there have been fifty-three Animated Disney movies that the company considers their classic vault movies. Given how long that scope is, it is probably fair to say that just about everyone has a favorite Disney movie. I think a person’s favorite is largely determined by when they themselves were kids or when they had kids. For instance, I have seen all of the early 90’s Disney movies (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, etc) because I was in middle school in the 90’s and I had a younger sister who always picked Disney movies on family movie nights. However, until recently I have not watched many Disney movies. For instance of the fourteen Animated Disney movies release between 2000 and 2012, I have seen exactly one of them. However, I have seen both of the new ones, and I have no doubt when the next one, Zootopia, comes out I will end up seeing that one as well. We all have our favorite Disney movie, and mine is without a doubt the Lion King. The Lion King has often been described as “Disney does Shakespeare”. I would argue that the Lion King is Disney doing it better than Shakespeare as it crams as much character development, depth, and dramatic tension in a ninety minute cartoon about talking lions than most stories can manage to even get close to. My single favorite scene from the movie is towards the end. Due to a mistake, Simba has been running from his past, and he is finally forced to confront it. If it has been a while since you have seen it, here is what happens:
What makes this scene so memorable though for me, is one line, Simba’s father challenges him to “Remember who you are.” This particular scene really stuck a cord with me, because when I first saw it in middle school I needed to remember who I was. Like so many other adolescents have done and will do during those awkward years, I made myself something I was not in a vain attempt to fit into ideals that others put upon me. I insisted on dressing a certain way, pretending to like certain things, and be a certain way in hopes that I would be more accepted. But it was not me, I needed to remember who I was. Twenty one years later, I still find myself occasionally needing the gentle reminder “remember who you are.” To live authentic, faith centered lives, I think we all need that reminder from time to time.
If we need to be reminded of who we are, that leads to the question “who are you?” There is a lot to admire about Jesus, but one of the things that this morning’s scripture sheds light on is the fact that Jesus knew exactly who he was. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the baptism of Jesus. This morning’s reading from Mark though, is slightly different than then one in Matthew. In Matthew God addresses the crowd and says “This is my son”. However, in Mark after being baptized God the Father speaks directly to Jesus saying, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” I have no clue how the relation between Jesus and God the Father worked while Jesus was on earth, and I have no idea what it was like for Jesus to be fully man and fully God. However, for this even to happen at Jesus baptism there had to be a significant reason for God reminding Jesus who he was. At his baptism it was publically declared who Jesus was, and he did not deviate from that. Jesus taught with an authority, that the teachers of the law could not replicate. They would challenge him, but Jesus spoke as if he knew the heart of God intimately, in the way that only a close son could. When Peter declared that Jesus was the messiah, the son of the living God, Jesus did not deny it. In the gospel of John, Jesus even goes as far as declaring before “Abraham was I am”, which in the Jewish faith is probably the most direct way to declare oneself to be God. Jesus knew who he was, and the role he had to play. As Philippians 2:8 reminds us Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross.” When Jesus was baptized, he was told exactly who he is, and in the three years or so between the baptism and the crucifixion, Jesus let that declaration define everything he did.
Who are you, should be a simple question, but it is not is it? We all have so many messages that bombard us, that tell us who we are supposed to be, that it is hard to not get caught up in it. There are personal, societal, and cultural pressures that are constantly trying to sway us one way or another. It is like we all have multiple layers piled up on us that attempt to define who we are. Here are a few examples. Did you ever notice how when adults meet each other for the first time the first question they ask is “What do you do?” Now, what we mean by that is “what is your job?”, but that is not what we ask, we ask what do you do. We allow our jobs to define who we are. I feel and know that pressure. Granted for me my job is more than a job, I do feel it is something I am called to do. Despite that though, I feel the pressure that I am supposed to act a specific way, like certain things, and hold certain opinions because that is what expected of my job. My job may be a calling, but it is not who I am. My life should be more than the business of the church. For the question who are you? My answer is not pastor.
Society also defines who we are, and this is especially true in gender stereotypes. We are taught from a young age, what it means to be male and female. Surprisingly, this is getting worse. A higher percentage of new toys made today are more gender specific than they were in the 1950’s. A good example of this is LEGO. It is hard to just get LEGO blocks now. Instead all LEGO sets are themed. Boy sets are of superheroes and snarling fighters, and girl sets are of shopping malls, boutiques, and come in pink boxes. I know that I cannot even begin to appreciate the social pressure that all women feel when it comes to beauty standards. There are voices in our society that tell us what we are supposed to be like. They tell us that real men act this way or real women can only look this way. We allow those voices to distract us, and if we are not careful we allow those voices to define who we are. It is a black and white fact that I am a man, but the societal understanding of what that means is not who I am. That is also not my answer for “Who are you?”
There are other times we seek to define ourselves. We seek to emphasize some aspect of who we are and let it define us. Some people dedicate themselves to a sport, to their garden, or to their geeky pursuits. We can lose ourselves in something that is truly unimportant. You may love the Colts, but do you really want a football fan to be the sum of you who you are? It is easy for us to lose ourselves in something we enjoy, but in the end those things are relatively empty. When we devout ourselves to the unimportant, we fritter away our lives on shallow details. We lose out and miss the abundant life that Jesus talks about. Whatever fun pursuits we are passionate about, cannot be our answer to the question Who are you?
Once we take off all of those layers, once we strip down to the heart of who we are, what is left? Who are you? For those of who are baptized, who you are was declared at our baptism. Now I realize, we were not all baptized in the Methodist tradition, but regardless of Christian denomination baptism has common elements. In baptism we are declared to be disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the family of God. In Galatians 3:27-28 Paul wrote it this way, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew, nor Gentile, neither slave, nor free nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is who we are! We are the redeemed who through the saving blood of Jesus the Christ have been fully reunited with our Creator. That blessed assurance is what should define us. That is what we should be clothed with.
Who are you? John Newton, author of the song Amazing Grace, knew the answer to that question. Later in his life Newton began to suffer from dementia and his memory greatly suffered. When he was on his death bed, he was recorded saying, “Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.” To remember who we are, we first need to know the answer to the question. That is a question, we can only answer for ourselves. So, who am I? After I strip away all of the definitions, labels, and assumptions that are piled on me, who am I? I am a child of God, redeemed by Lord Jesus my savior, and I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful disciple. That is who I am. On the days that I am overwhelmed by temptation, on the days that I listen to the lies of the world, on the days that I am tired, on the days I am worn, on the days that feel hopeless that is what I need to remember.
Who are you? May who you are not be defined by your job or by our culture. Let us follow the example set by Jesus in this morning’s scripture, and be defined by our baptism. May who you understand yourself as defined by how much God loves you. May who you are be firmly rooted in Jesus. If you feel lost today, then may you remember who you are. If you feel distant from God today, may you remember who you are. If you feel tired and worn, then may you remember who you are. Remember who you are, remember your baptism and be thankful.