Who Are We?
By Sarah Pomerantz
August 30, 2009
Galatians 3: 25-29
(mp3, 2.8Mb) ]
owing up, my sister Carrie and I were often met with two responses when we would share with other kids that we had a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. First was, “AWESOME! You must totally rack up the gifts during the holiday season”. That was of course, not true. We often got one gift that was suppose to cover both holidays—and for me, it often covered my birthday which falls right after the holiday season. Second response was—“well, which half of you is Jewish and which half of you is Catholic. The right or the left”? Tough questions to answer when you are a child, and for Carrie and me, we were the only kids in our neighborhood in Northern Virginia who came from an interfaith household.
parents made it a point to educate us in both faiths, and to find us books
geared towards the children of interfaith marriages. Despite all of this education, it was still
hard to answer those questions and to have such deep conversations on the
playground. I can’t fault those
classmates of mine from asking those questions because they were the questions
I asked myself as I grew up. It is still a question I wrestle with today.
truth is identity is complicated. No
one is simply one thing or the other, and answering the question of
“who we are”
requires us to really think long and hard about that answer. We really are no different from that group of
early Christians that Paul wrote to in Galatia. They too are faced with questions about who they are and no one really
knows what these groups of Christians are supposed to look like. This question about the relationships between
“these new non-Jewish converts and Jewish Christians, and between the emerging Christian
movement and Judaism”  was the question for this
community. Critical to this discussion
was adherence to Moses’ law. Some in
Galatia believed that all Gentile converts should be required to follow the
law, not just part of the law but the whole thing. This group was Paul’s main
detractor in Galatia, and Paul has to find a way to bring in these two
groups, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians together.
becomes the great equalizer-erasing all of those social distinctions that would
normally keep Jews and Gentiles apart. This baptism “…makes us one and gives us the
potential of seeing each other, regardless of differences, as brothers and
sisters, all baptized into Christ”. All now are heirs to the
promises made to Abraham.
we may feel removed from this community, those walls are still with us. Those “Religious/ethnic, socioeconomic, and
gender differences in our day might not take the same labels as (Jew, Greek,
slave and free, male and female). We may
need to translate to new categories like Korean and African-American,
Latino/Latina and Anglo, rich and poor, gay and straight, educated and
uneducated, “High” church and “low
church, young and old, and more. The
differences, whatever we call them, still be divisive, not just in the world
but also in the church”.  We only have to look to the person next to
us in the pew this morning or on the train to work in the morning to see
someone who is different than we are.
passage is beautiful reminder of the radical equality found in God’s
kin-dom. It is true that, “Galatians
3:28 calls us to be…draw in together into oneness”.  However, that “oneness doesn’t take away the
that we see in ourselves and those around us. Those differences shape who we are and our
identity. Oneness does not erase our
gender, class, race, sexual identity, status or education level but rather it
requires us to face those who we would normally find ourselves at odds
with. It is recognizing everyone’s right to have
their own identity and allowing for that identity to have a place at the table.
are all made to be unique and different from those around us. Our diversity is a reflection of God’s image
and while we have to reconcile those differences, we should also celebrate them
as well. As we strive to become one,
our diversity does not disappear. It is
not stamped out so that we all become cookie cutter images of the “perfect
fact, it will only become more apparent since we are all going to have to
encounter those who are different than us.
towards the oneness Paul writes about will always come with some pain and
strife. Living “with oneness means
confessing that we are both barrier builders and the weapon wielders. It means getting close to those who are most
difficult to love… It means entering into the hard of working of reconciliation
and allowing ourselves to also long for the unity Paul spoke about”. Thankfully, “living with oneness can lead to
working for more unity in the world. This is how we can do the work that Christ
started and that we have been commissioned to pick up.
who are we? We are many people striving
to be one body. As I stand before you
now, I am a Jew and I am a Christian. I am biologically female. I am white,
American, and am still struggling to figure out my own identity. Those questions I faced at five are still
questions I ask myself at twenty-seven. Yet I am sure that my identity, my diversity, my own self can be part of
this oneness, as is everyone else’s in this place.
you leave this sacred space this morning and head out into the world, I urge
you to contemplate who it is you are and how you can help us move into a spirit
of oneness. Remind yourself that God created
you and your neighbor to be reflections of God’s self and that diversity is
something to be treasured and protected. Leave this holy place ready to embark on a painful yet fulfilling
journey of oneness and unity.
 “Introduction to the Letter
of Paul to the Galatians,” The New Oxford Annotated Bible ed., Coogan,
Michael D., 309.
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