Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's Not Where You Come From, but Where You Are Going

The Huffington Post actually published a good article.  I know, I know.  Usually the HuffPo is garbage laced with poison, but this really was a helpful religion of all topics!

In his article "Why We Know So Little About Moses and Jesus" author Bernard Starr helps to explain why the record of the lives of these two Biblical figures do not include detailed accounts of their upbringing.

Ever since the dawn of the age of psychoanalysis we have been trying to understand what makes a person tick by asking where they came from.  The keys to a person's identity lie in the past, in their youth.  That is, at least, what we believe to be true.

And so we often want more information about the young life of Moses.  What was it like to grow up as an outsider in Egypt?  Was he ever mistreated?  Was he spoiled?  What was his education like?  We assume that these are important questions.

The same goes for Jesus.  We want to know what happened while the holy family was down in Egypt.  What was it like for Jesus between the ages of 3 and 12?  What did He do until He was baptized?  Why are these accounts so sparse?

As Starr explains:
 Throughout most of history the prevailing belief was that people are shaped not by experiences but by destiny -- meaning who you are is pre-determined. In the Bhagavad-Gita -- the Hindu Scripture dating back thousands of years -- personality is attributed to a mix of the three inborn personality types called the gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), plus the karmic traits carried over from previous lives. Today, we call that view the biological or nature explanation: You're wired to be who you are, with inborn tendencies and characteristics that supersede personal experiences and direct you to particular experiences.
In other words, to ancient people it was far more important to understand where a person was going than to understand where he came from.

According to the destiny view, if you survive to adulthood -- no small feat when we consider the huge child mortality rates through much of history -- you will become the person of your inborn and predetermined destiny. If that's the case, why even bother to examine life experiences? They would have little explanatory value. Moses was simply destined to be a prophet, and according to Christian Scripture Jesus was meant to be the Messiah. 
I am not sure how accurate Starr is in his understanding of the minds of people in the ancient middle east.  After all, the Jews in the Gospel according to John seem fairly obsessed with where Jesus has come from.

But that is my point.  They don't know where Jesus comes from.  They keep saying He is from Galilee when we all know He is from Bethlehem in Judea.  Even more, He is from heaven, from God.  Yet all of that is a moot point if we do not know where Jesus is going.

He is going to the cross.

He is going to rise again.

He is going back to the Father.

These are the things that define Jesus.  These are the keys to knowing Him, not only as a historical figure, not only as God, but as the God-in-the-flesh who has come from heaven to take you where He is going.

We all know where we are from.  We are from such and such a place.  We have stories to tell and scars to show.  We have secrets to keep and skeletons to hide in our closets.  And psychoanalysis would tell you that you need to understand those things, you need to accept them, in order to see who you really are, in order to discover your identity.

Jesus calls poppycock. 

The gift of God in Christ is that our identity is no longer determined by where we have been, but by where we are going.  We are headed straight for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  That is your destiny in Christ.  

And where you are going shows you who you are.  You are a child of God.  You are forgiven.  You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  

Why do you think that God spends so much time reminding you of who He has declared you to be?  He does it in Baptism, Absolution, the Lord's Supper.  He tells you your destiny in all the best hymns and all the best sermons.

God knows where you have come from.  It is the same place as everyone else: sin.  And He has taken care of that mess with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Now God tells you where you are going because of what He has done.  You are going to the place that He has prepared for you: a new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness.        

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