Who doesn’t, at some point, ask the question, “Who am I?” The band Supertramp expressed this desperation in their 1979 song entitled “The Logical Song”:
There are times when all the world´s asleep,
The questions run too deep,
For such a simple man.
Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned?
I know it sounds absurd,
But please tell me who I am!
Do we have an answer?
The Christian Story tells us that God made the world of his own will and decision and power. So right off the bat, we are given purpose – or at least given to know that a purposeful being decided we would exist. And then, brace yourself, we find that the Christian story tells us that we fouled up the place pretty quickly. We’ve wrangled for centuries about whether we could have not sinned, and exactly how deep the Fall went, but it is fundamental to the Gospel that humankind is broken, and that in the words of Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken.”
Sometimes folks want to downplay this aspect of the Christian story but this terrible truth is actually its liberating genius. That is, it accurately diagnoses humanity, and then it helps us to see that we need treatment for our ailment. At one stroke the story puts us in our place, but not to condemn us, rather to save us. That is, if we are given to know that we are sick, and that we are all sick, and that we are sick unto death, we can be made to know we need healing.
And of course, the story tells us that this very God who created us, loved us enough to put our healing into action, as prayed in the Great Thanksgiving: “in the calling of Israel to be his people; in his Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, his Son. For in these last days he sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world.” In hearing this story over and over, we may not sense the impact. But we must step back and ask the question: Does this make sense of my life? Does this make sense of all lives?
I find that it is a story that tells my life. That is, I see my own fallenness, and I cannot find a human race, culture, nation, or individual without finding brokenness in some proportion. Yet we also find hope, goodness, love, and something we call “humanity” in the best sense of this word. I think at this point the Christian Gospel is the remedy and that Christ is the key. Only this story, this man, and this imperfect but holy Church conveys to our broken lives both the sense of repentance necessary in a broken world, but also the empowering presence and grace of the God who made us.
We have lots of leftover questions that either are left unanswered, or for which we are as yet unable to grasp the answer. But the basic, creedal story itself, the story of sin and salvation, powerfully impacts cultures and peoples and is continuing to speak to the souls of human beings even these two millennia after Pentecost.
We know we we are, because he has shown us.