June 2023 Pastor’s Article

This month I will spend a week helping to lead Jr. High church camp.  This year at camp we are going to be focusing on exploring the Christian faith through questions, and every day of camp will have a “BIG question.”   On Tuesday the big question to consider and discuss is “Who am I?”   That evening I will be speaking about this question as part of the evening worship.   What follows is an excerpt of the camp message:

Part of who I understand myself to be is someone who loves Star Wars, and I think when it comes to this idea of “clothing ourselves with Christ” there is a Star Wars story that illustrates what that means fairly well, and that is the Mandalorian.  Chances are, even if you have not watched any of the show, you are probably familiar with it or in the very least you have seen baby Yoda.  Despite being the cutest, technically baby Yoda is not the main character. The main character is the Mandalorian.  He is part of a remnant cultural group that seeks to preserve the ancient traditions of the planet Mandalore, which was destroyed by the evil empire.  The exiled Mandalorians never remove their armor in front of anyone.   Their identity and their Mandalorian armor become inseparable.  Their armor fully represented their identity and their answer to the question Who am I.   Essentially what the Mandalorians clothed themselves in, became who they were.

To clothe ourselves in Jesus means that we live like Jesus.  It means we accept him as savior and Lord.  Just like Jesus, we live in such a way that we are loving God with all of our being and having compassion on our neighbors.   We clothe ourselves in Jesus when trying to love God the way Jesus loves God, and loving others the way Jesus loved others is part of our identity.  It is part of how we answer the question “Who am I?”  Jesus is not a cheap Halloween costume that we put on and take off when it suits us. We are not supposed to just wear Jesus when we go to church on Sundays.  Just like being a Mandalorian means always wearing the armor, being a Christian should mean always being clothed in Jesus.

The Mandalorian series makes it clear that people instantly recognize the armor, and that armor communicates a clear message.  In the same way, being clothed with Christ should make us instantly recognizable and it should also communicate a clear message.  We are clothed in Christ when we live our lives in a way that clearly communicates that we are disciples.  It is our actions, the ways that we love God, and the way that we love others, that makes evident our faith.

People know we are clothed with our Lord Jesus Christ when they experience Jesus through us.   This is not something that happens by chance.  No one accidently becomes more like Jesus, we do so through intentional choices and effort.   In the Star Wars universe, Mandalorians did not become known as fearsome warriors because their armor looked neat.  They gained that reputation through consistently showing it to be true.  Christians should be known by their radical love and inclusion of all.   This is the way.

If you wish to follow Jesus, then being a Christian should be part of our identity.  It should be part of who we understand ourselves to be.   However, it should not be something that is placed upon us.  We should not be a Christian just because our parents take us to church.  We should not be a Christian just because we have a lot of friends.  We should be a Christian because we choose to.  One of the neat bits of Star Wars lore is that anyone can be a Mandalorian.  A person does not have to be from the planet Mandalore or have Mandalorian ancestors.  Mandalorians are the ones who choose to walk the way of the Mandalore.  In the same way, to be a Christian is to walk the way of Christ.  It is wanting to follow the example that he gave us.  It is the choice to love the way that Jesus loves.  It is saying Yes to God’s grace in our own life, and being willing to extend that same grace to others.

We all have to find our own answer to “Who am I?”,  but it is my hope that you will find value in the way of Christ.  It is my hope you will find meaning in a way of living that is based in grace, love, and forgiveness.  It is my prayer that you will find meaning in finding your identity in Christ, and that you will choose to clothe yourself in Christ.   If you find this kind of value and meaning in following Jesus, then may following Jesus be a core part of who you understand yourself to be, for this is the way.

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