Who am I?
Who am I? Many a good film or book has been based on the hidden identity of the central character – hidden sometimes to others and sometimes to themselves. Another popular genre and hobby currently
is tracing our ancestral roots, whether through historical or genetic research. It is a basic human need to know who we are, and where we come from. Who am I?
National identity is very much in the news at the moment with an upsurge in a number of nationalist independence movements and the debates around Brexit. National identity is very difficult to pin down, and relates not just to geography, but also to culture, language and shared history. Influential in British national identity is the national memory of times of war, and of the sacrifices made by so many to preserve our national freedom. Remembrance Day and our services on 12th November give us an opportunity to look back with gratitude and remember.
November provides another opportunity to remember with gratitude – on Sunday 5th both our churches will have a focus within the main morning services on remembering loved ones who have died. Our self-identity is very much tied up with the significant people in our lives – friends and family members; they have made us the people we are, and the very memory of them shapes our self-identity.
Our present identity – who we are now – is rooted in what we have done and those who have been part of our lives to date.
One of the cruellest aspects of dementia is that it brutally strips away our self-identity, as our memories of what we have done and been and the people in our lives, are lost. Of course the individuals stripped of their memories are the same people, but their loss of rootedness in the past brutally disrupts their self-identity and stability in the present.
But it is not just our present identity and sense of self-worth that is formed by the memory of what and who has gone before. Our future is determined by it as well.
The central aspect of corporate Christian worship is the memory of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, a key expression of that being a re-enactment of the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples, which itself rehearsed the Last Supper (the Passover) that the children of Israel had before their miraculous rescue from captivity in Egypt. Both Suppers remember – and celebrate – that powerful demonstration of God’s love for his people and his power to save them. The memory of those great, world-changing events, can create in us our identity as God’s beloved children and members of His kingdom.
But ultimately it is not our memory that makes the difference. It is God’s. As he was being crucified, the thief on the cross beside Jesus said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43); in doing so, the thief was assured of his identity as a beloved child of God and member of God’s kingdom. Our future – and eternal – identity depends on us being remembered by Jesus.