Summary: Easter 3: We’re still celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead... and in this Resurrection, Christ offers us a new identity.
Jeff Foxworthy became famous with jokes based on the line, “You just might be a Redneck IF...” and then he would give you a stereotypical behavioral association. He would say stuff like:
·“You just might be a Redneck IF...You use your fishing license as a form of identification.”
·“You just might be a Redneck IF...Your secret family recipe is illegal.”
·“You just might be a Redneck IF...Your momma has ‘Ammo’ on her Christmas list.”
·“You just might be a Redneck IF...You took a fishing pole to Sea World.”
Foxworthy had a whole slew of these. Even though he has been out of the limelight for a while, you can still find his one-liners on the Internet. One of the things that made his brand of comedy so very popular was that his jokes had to do with identity. People, even rednecks, want to be able to identify with something. The Internet website where I found the Foxworthy lines that I read to you was put up by a fellow that wrote this:
“I’ve lived in Alabama, I’ve worked in Alabama, I’ve got lots of friends in Alabama, I married a lady born and raised in Alabama, most of her relatives still live in Alabama.... So, I assure you, Mr. Foxworthy speaks the truth!!! As a Jeff Foxworthy fan, I hope you enjoy these excerpts which people have sent to me on the web.” (http://www.specsci.com/donspage/htmldocs/fox_wthy.htm)
There is almost a sense of pride in this fellow’s association with Foxworthy’s material, isn’t there? Who would have figured? I mean, the things that Foxworthy says are not exactly complimentary. In fact, we could make a real good case for these observations not even belonging in Church. But there is that sense of identity that gives people a pride in belonging. Maybe it goes beyond pride – maybe it is a need. Maybe it is critical for us to feel that we are part of something special – to belong.
There was this old boy by the name of Abraham Maslow. This fellow was absolutely brilliant. He came up with a hierarchy of needs for people. You can think of Maslow’s needs as kind of like a pyramid. Before you can worry about the top of the pyramid – which represents things like ‘self esteem’ and self actualization - you have to build the lower layers – things like food and safety. Well, “belonging” was one of the lower layer needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. He called these very basic needs, ‘deficiency needs,’ because if these are not met, there is no way for us to excel at the more esoteric things in life.
We’re still celebrating Easter in Church. But I want to ask you a question: What in the world does identity have to do with Easter? I’d like to tell you that I’d like to begin to answer that question for you based on the reading and context from our reading in the book of Acts. Lets read it together. [Read Acts 4:8-12 here]
A man who had been crippled from birth asked Peter and John for money. Now Peter and John were typical preachers – broke – no money. But Peter told the crippled man that he had something to give him. He said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
So Peter took the crippled man by the hand and helped him to his feet, and the Scriptures say that instantly, the man was healed. He followed Peter and John just leaping and jumping behind them. What I is really critical to catch here is that immediately, Peter and John showed to whom they belonged. In the very act of healing, they proclaimed, “We belong to Jesus.” In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – walk. They didn’t rely on their credentials or their identity – it was Jesus’ identity on which they relied.
Now, the same crowd that had killed Jesus took notice of this incredible miracle. You see, crowds had gathered around Peter and John and what do you think they were telling these people? Listen to their message:
Acts 3.12-15: When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”