What’s Our Defining Label?

What’s Our Defining Label?

Text:  Matthew 2:1-15; Galatians 3:28

This Sunday we are looking at the traditional story of the three Wise Men visiting Jesus, and how this is seen as the first step in Jesus’ mission being spread to all races, cultures, and nationalities of the world.  But our interest is in the role and impact of labels that we wear.  Labels can be helpful.  Wearing the label “senior citizen” allows me certain discounts, a special VIA bus card, automatic mail-in ballots, and expedited handling for getting a COVID shot.  Sometimes labels are not helpful and can lead to stereotypes and in-your-face racial, religious, and cultural prejudices.

When I went to Guatemala as a missionary, I was funded by the Westlake Presbyterian Church in Austin where I had many friends.  I soon settled into the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Quetzaltenango where I quickly made more friends.  Eventually, a mission work group from Westlake arrived and my two groups of friends got to know each other.

What was so depressing about this otherwise happy event was the behavior of just about everyone as they treated one another according to the many labels that were self-imposed or stuck on others.  Here was a room full of my friends walking on eggshells with each other, being overly polite, overly formal, and overly happy.  I actually started mixing with both groups and whispering, “Relax, these are normal people” (my label?). 

I wish I could say I was successful, but I wasn’t.  Sometimes differing races, cultures, and languages present formidable barriers.  Yet in our text from Galatians, we will see Paul write to the Galatians,  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  When we cut through the figurative language, was  St. Paul being idealistic or was he on to something?  That is not a rhetorical question.  Join with us this coming Sunday in person or online as we wrestle with what the Wise Men can teach us about the labels we wear. 

 —Paul