Remember Who You Are

Psalm 78: 12 – 16

Rev. Dr. Jill A. Kirchner-Rose

November 4, 2018

On this All Saints Day, I reflect on the musical “The Lion King.”   It is my all-time favorite musical. I love the ingenuity of the costumes and the inspiration of the music. But most of all, I am deeply touched by story line. 

For those of you are not familiar with the Lion King, let me set the stage for you.  The lion, Mufasa, is the King of the African plains.  Mufasa has a son, named Simba.    The old, wise baboon, Rafikki, holds Simba, this lion cub, high in his outstretched arms for all the animals to see.  Simba will one day be the king of the African plains.  Unfortunately, Simba runs away when his father, Mufasa, is killed by his uncle Scar, who becomes the next king.  Uncle Scar, the villain in the story, leads Simba to believe that he is responsible for his father’s own death.  Simba leaves and takes refuge with a pair of insectivores.  We see the king of beasts reduced to a life of eating bugs.  At this point, Simba turns his back on his calling and leads a life of “Hakunamata – a problem-free philosophy – no worries for the rest of your life.  Hakunamata.” 

It is then that Simba hears through the nighttime skies, the voice of his father, “Simba, remember who you are. You have become someone who is less than you can be. Remember!”  Simba tries to ignore the voice, but the old baboon Rafiki who held Simba up at his birth seeks Simba out and confronts him.  He says, “Who are you?  You don’t know who you are but I know who you are.  You are Mufassa’s boy.  Your father is still alive because he lives in you.”  Remember who you are.  Let’s watch that clip from the movie.  (show clip)

The Lion King’s message was “Remember who you are.”  And that’s my message for us today on this All Saints Day, “Remember who you are.”  Simba had forgotten who he was.  He wasn’t a bug eater.  He was the son of the King.  Sometimes we forget who we are. When faced with challenges, we may be tempted to run away, hide, turn our back on our high calling and say “whatever – Hakunamata.”  In those moments, I believe our ancestors, those loved ones represented on this chancel, those loved ones very much alive in our hearts, our family members and friends just on the other side of a very thin veil between this world and the next are saying, “Remember who you are.” 

It is a message for All Saints Day and it is a message for Covenant Sunday. “Remember who you are!” We come from a long lineage, ancestors of faith, who paved the way for an Open and Affirming, multicultural, multiracial, accessible to all, peace with justice, united and uniting denomination we have today. The United Church of Christ. When faced with challenges, our ancestors of faith did not run, did not hide, but rather became a “church of firsts.” As we look at our historical roots, we celebrate that we were among the first Americans to take a stand against slavery.  We ordained the first African-American pastor in a historically white denomination and elected the very first African-American General Minister and President in a historically white denomination.  We founded the first school for the deaf.  We ordained the first woman.  We were on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement.  We’ve been advocating for LGBTQ rights since the 1970’s.  We are the first mainstream Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay man – and that happened before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from a list of mental illnesses.  We are also the first mainstream Christian denomination to ordain a transgender person. We were the first church in America to endorse marriage equality. And even most recently, in response to the senseless and tragic loss of 11 precious lives from the Tree of Life synagogue, the United Church of Christ issued this statement, “We will not run. We will not hide. We will not shy away from a toxic, white Christian supremacy masquerading as faith. We will not rest until every street, every synagogue, every mosque and every church is free from hatred. We will not rest until love wins and there is a just world for all.”

We come from an even longer lineage of faith, the Jewish people themselves. In our scripture passage this morning, the Israelites / the Jews have just escaped slavery in Egypt. They took the courageous step to move from slavery to liberation. But soon after crossing the Red Sea, they find themselves in the wilderness facing the challenges of hunger, thirst, and scorching heat. In that moment, God says to them, “Remember who you are.  You are a royal priesthood; you are a chosen people; you are a holy nation.  I am with you. Remember who and whose you are.”

We face many challenges in this world – anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia – our temptation, at times, may be to run, to hide, to turn away from our high calling and say “Hakunamatah – a problem-free philosophy,” but our ancestors and our ancestors of faith and our Creator have a different message for us. On this All Saints Day, on this Covenant Sunday, may we hear these words, “Remember, remember, remember who you are.” Amen.