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The Disney version of the Hercules myth, tells of a displaced child of Zeus and Hera whose godhood was stolen from him barring him from living with his parents on Olympus. Though he still possesses his godlike strength, he is awkward and clumsy, which makes him all the more dangerous to the people around him. Because he is unintentionally dangerous, the people around him fear and even despise him and ultimately make it clear that he does not belong. All he wants to do is fit in; to find where he belongs.

    The desire for belonging is a strong one in part because it is a question of identity. When we know who we are we know where we belong…and…when we know where we belong we have a sense of who we are. It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing.

    We often relegate this quest for belonging and identity to adolescence. To be sure, a part of what defines adolescence is seeking one’s own identity (apart from parents, and in relation to others). It is why adolescents can seem rebellious and continually frustrate their parents who would make different choices for their children.

    At the same time, the quest for belonging and identity is not exclusive to adolescents. Even in our adult lives we have crises of belonging and identity. Sometimes we’re not quite sure where we fit in or how our gifts connect or disconnect us. Indeed, many have suggested that this is at the root of our current cultural crisis. We are so connected (through things like social media) to people we never imagined we would be, and our world changes so quickly (news is instantaneous – for good or ill), and we are inundated with choices (Sonic Drive-in boasts over 1,063,953 drink combinations) it is hard to filter all of that.

    That is why when we dedicate children, or bless graduates, or say goodbye to friends who are moving or just leaving us for a time, or whatever moment in our lives together we are observing, at the root of those moments the church must seize the opportunity to remind them that we will always be a place of belonging for them. We must reiterate that they are always welcome among us, no matter what they do or where they are or what has been done to them.

    When we do that, we remind them and ourselves of our primary identity: we are children of God.

Shalom,

Pastor Owen