I guess it could be said that you spend your whole life, most of the time without knowing it, defining who you are. In a recent conversation, I was asked about something that took place a long time ago in my ministry here at St. John’s. I made the quip, “You probably wouldn’t have liked me back then but I have improved greatly with age.” In those days I wasn’t thinking about defining myself but we get defined, whether we like it or not, or whether it’s intentional or not.
I even remember someone making an accusation that I was too busy to really care about them or that I always looked like I was in a rush, ignoring those around me. I tried to deny it but upon further consideration, that was me, that was how others saw me saw me and even defined me. I guess I was, in their eyes, a man of great ambition with little time for others. As I look back, it may have been true and if that’s the case, I was working towards the wrong definition of who Marvin Henk wanted to be or should have been.
As I watch politics on TV and the many candidates, who have thrown their hat into the ring, I see a desperate attempt by many to define themselves, or should I say re-define themselves? In some cases, when you look at politics you can watch candidates remake themselves into whatever the polls suggest they should be in order to win. I recently saw, in the Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu say, as well as do, anything to be re-elected.
On the other hand, I watched Jimmy Carter over the last 30 years become a giant role model for us all. One certainly could argue that Jimmy Carter was not the greatest president we ever had (but certainly also not the worst); however, you have to admire a person who continues to the age of 90 traveling all over the world on behalf of human rights, peace, and global health. Here is a man that also builds home with Habitat for Humanity, has written over 20 books, and the list of accomplishments goes on and on, even down to teaching Adult Sunday School in the little town of Plains, Georgia. You could say Jimmy has been redefining himself ever since he left the presidency. Part of his definition is that he is a Christian. In these skeptical days it is good to know there are Christians who never grow weary of doing good and keep redefining themselves in better and better ways.
This Sunday Jesus talks about things that define us, but also things that defile us: envy, slander, pride, folly, deceit, wickedness, to name a few. In the end, we constantly seek forgiveness, redemption and transformation. Every Sunday’s confession tells us it’s time to reconsider who we are and to try again to define ourselves as people who are about doing good and growing in a faith that will make a positive difference in the lives of others in this world.