To have an identity is to be unique, to be distinguished, to have connection with others, to have history, to belong. In late 2014 a worldwide gathering focused on the plight of global migration. The circumstances of consensual journey and forced displacement detailed the ever-shifting movement of humankind. Perhaps the most disturbing revelation focused on war refugees. They flee their homes and homelands in search of safety, which is often short-lived. As they make their way to new places, many become victims of the excruciating dangers of their perilous journeys or of disingenuous promises of freedom and security extended by the unscrupulous.
Many who do escape armed conflict find themselves in a doubly disturbing predicament. They are no longer in their place of origin, with known ways and language. And then, to compound that misery, they frequently discover that their home areas no longer exist and, in some cases, even their country vanishes.
Simply put, they have no identity. No place to call home. They hardly know themselves any more.
The Exodus journey was like that, in a way . . . and yet very different. The people of that pilgrimage have a tangible sense of God’s presence with them. They are not abandoned. Moses exclaims to his Creator, “We shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” Moses lays claim to a unique identity that finds expression in the mutual relationship of God to God’s people and they to their God.
Quite a number of years ago a claim was boldly, publicly declared, “I am somebody!” That’s true—uniquely and individually. We are all somebody, and our lives matter, most especially in relationship to the Creator God.
Who are we, O Lord? We are your people. We are somebody! Our lives matter. For this we most humbly thank you. Amen.
In Exodus 33 Moses successfully argues that without Yahweh’s merciful presence Israel is no nation and that Yahweh’s and Moses’ efforts have come to naught. Psalm 99 mentions Yahweh’s royal rule, which brings to mind the human agents of that rule: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Each of these leaders facilitated Yahweh’s conversation with the people and Yahweh’s rule over them. The opening lines from First Thessalonians raise a question about the church’s understanding of evangelism. Paul and his coworkers experience a change in themselves because of the Thessalonians, who become a living proclamation of the gospel by virtue of their ready acceptance of it. In the Gospel reading, Jesus answers a question with a question and confuses his “audience” both then and today.
• Read Exodus 33:12-23. When have you most longed for a glimpse of God’s glory? How did God give you the assurance you needed?
• Read Psalm 99. Where in your life is forgiveness needed to restore a loving relationship? How have you experienced “a forgiving God”?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. As your Christian faith has developed, how have you seen it move “from head to heart to hands”?
• Read Matthew 22:15-22. How do you give to God “the things that are God’s”? What are some of those things Jesus wants you to give?
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