Do you have any idea what our brand is?
Levi. Coca-Cola. Ford
These are a few of the brands that built the United States. Each one of them was established with its basic product before 1925. Each one is still totally recognizable ninety-two years later. The term “brand” originally derived from the stamping or marking of cattle or sheep for identification purposes.
Believe me, I have no desire to be visibly stamped or marked like sheep. However, I’m painfully aware that I have both a brand and have been branded as a follower of Jesus and as a child of the resurrection.
In John’s gospel Caiaphas refers to Jesus’ death and eventual resurrection when he states, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” All the gospel writers relate the story of Jesus’ approach to his death and resurrection, and while they differ in detail, they all have one thing in common – God’s love. It was God’s love for us that resulted in Jesus’ coming to be the perfect self-offering for our sins.
Yet, God’s perfection in love is different from the way we think of perfection. God’s love doesn’t fix the world. Yet, God is so passionate about us that God joins us in all aspects of our life. And, scandal of all scandals, God even invites us into this mad, passionate, excessive love for humanity. We’re asked to love as God loves, and to be the way that God comes to others in love. We’re asked to embody God’s love, to witness, serve and evangelize. We’re asked to embrace the things that act out God’s passion for humanity. Just as Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, we are asked to overturn the ways in which we act and think as people of faith and the resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection is an invitation to spend our life passionately for others; to love others as God loves us. We must understand that because we are people of the resurrection, we should be courageous in our love and open to take risks. However, being a disciple of Christ is risky business. Now, although being a disciple is risky business, I once heard someone say, “God has a habit of giving us tasks for which we’re not ready, able or equipped and then equipping us to do them!”
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. As we endeavor to accept God’s invitation to live fully into being children of the resurrection, let’s do so recalling the brand received at baptism – the sign of the cross, traced on our foreheads sealing us as Christ’s own forever: the cross we are asked to carry; the cross that leads us wherever we go; the cross we are meant to honor in every person we meet. To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Zelda Kennedy is Senior Associate, Pastoral Care Healing and Health at All Saints Church, Pasadena.