Earlier this year the Archbishop of Canterbury and his mother provided a powerful Christian witness in the midst of very difficult and personal issues. I am most grateful for the Archbishop’s testimony and teaching about our fundamental identity in Jesus Christ.
Amidst all the media furor over the identity of his biological father the Archbishop wrote, “I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in Him never changes.” He went on to add, “At the very outset of my inauguration service three years ago, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Canterbury Cathedral congregation, said, ‘We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you and why do you request entry?’
'To which I responded, ‘I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.’ What has changed? Nothing!”
Amidst all the furor in our Church, in the parish and diocese and country and communion, in the midst of the turmoil of our own lives and souls, our questions of our own identity and our self doubt, here is a witness to something solid and secure, who I am in Jesus Christ. I grew up in a part of the world where the most important thing about you was who your grandparents were. “What’s your name, who’s your daddy” (the Zombies – Time of the Season) was always the first question; there were wrong answers!
We are called to find our identity in something more solid than our lineage, however low or high. In the Church we do not use last names, surnames or family names, we use our Christian names because our fundamental identity is found in Christ and with Christ. We are all the beloved children of God with full right of inheritance.
Our Catechism teaches this over and over again. “What is your name? Who are you?” it asks. We answer with our Christian names, the name by which Christ calls us and shall call us. The Good Shepherd knows us and calls us by name. What will it mean that day when we hear Christ call our name as He called Mary on Easter morning?
The Catechism goes further asking where we got this name from. The answer is from our Godparents in our Baptism and then we are taught what our identity is, who we are in Christ. “Wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.”
That means quite simply that we belong to Jesus and with Jesus. We are, in Baptism, marked as the sheep of the Good Shepherd. We are the members, the parts, of His body the Church.
Each of us is also the child of God; not just a child of God, as if there might be different kinds or classes, but the child of God. In Baptism we are born again the children of God, adopted and redeemed into the family of God through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
We are also made inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. All that belongs to Our Father is ours. The life and glory, love and peace, joy and delight of the kingdom of heaven are ours.
This is also nothing we have earned or deserved; it is all grace, the gift of God, poured out for us through Jesus Christ, poured out into us by the Holy Spirit to be received by faith and with thanksgiving.
The Church is the family of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Of that family and body and temple, the Anglican Communion and Anglican Church of Canada are small parts.
In Christ we belong to each other and we need each other, even or especially when we feel it the least. In the midst of these dangerous and divisive times, I think we are called to even greater collaboration.
We have been talking for two years in the Diocese of Saskatchewan about Collaborative Ministry which simply means working together. It does not mean amalgamation but it does mean clergy and laity working together in mission and ministry in a congregation and between congregations. Is it time for us also to think again about that kind of collaboration between dioceses?
Collaboration is only possible when we have a common sense of our identity and mission. It is only possible if we know ourselves and one another fundamentally and undeniably as sisters and brothers in the family, members of the body and living stones of the temple.
[This article was published in the June edition of the Saskatchewan Anglican]