Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who Am I?

This morning, the Gospel according to Matthew is the moment when Jesus turns to his disciples and poses the question, "Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?"  The answers are all over the place: the Son of Man is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.   But then Jesus asks the compelling question of his friends, "But who do you say that I am?"  And Simon Peter, the most extroverted of the bunch, pipes up with, "You are the Messiah."  Nobody told Peter to say it.  It was something he knew in his gut. Jesus praises him for the observation and promises that the church will be built upon his understanding and ability to perceive the Almighty standing before him. 

As I thought about this moment, I considered the significance of what it means to be known for who you are.  Society assigns labels to us, and sometimes we label ourselves, so that there can be order in the chaos.  We get defined by lots of things: our jobs, our genders, our marital status.   But none of that really speaks to who we are.   Who we are may not be so easily defined and categorized.  To know us requires a person to see more deeply and look to those things that are below the skin surface and to get to what makes that light shine out through our eyes.  That takes time, and a willingness to be seen as well.

In that sense, it's a bit like coming out.  To be known for who we are requires us to take the risk of letting others see us for who we really are.  Depending on the circumstances, that might not always feel safe.  I think that was a little bit of what was happening with Jesus.  Once Peter nails him as the Messiah, Jesus warns the others not to repeat that revelation to anyone.  For if that word got around too quickly in the world where the Roman Emperor had the reigns of power, there would be some serious trouble. 

I think about those places in the world where to be outwardly gay does run the risk of a person being killed.  And yet there are those in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria brave enough to live their lives honestly knowing that they are in jeopardy.  These real and present dangers put into context the fears some of us might have in this country about being out.  There are those dark corners of the United States where being openly gay might get you beat up or killed.  But, in general, our culture is changing, and it isn't as frightening to come out as lesbian or gay or even bi.  We are still struggling with transgender in most parts, and I think that's because of the human urge to place people in the binary camp of either "male" or "female".  With the next generation coming along, even that stumbling block is going to fall away.  

When we consider Christ's question, "Who do you say that I am?", I think we are being challenged to search our hearts for that answer.  Who do we say that Christ is?   Is he our personal Lord and Savior, only caring for our kind?  Is he the great emancipator for all (yes, all) people? 

Do we know Christ is the Messiah?  And if so, how do we know that?  Do we know it because other people have told us so, or have we experienced the liberation of the love that comes from Christ?   And, having recognized Christ as an active part of our lives as liberator, advocate and peace maker, do we allow that to be seen?  Or do we hide or act in ways that would make one wonder if we really are Christian?

A way to show that we know Christ is to treat everyone and everything as a living, breathing organism of God.  As Paul notes in his letter to the Romans, we are all part of one body, even in our many parts.  The more we live as part of the body, the more we make the Almighty visible to the world.  If God becomes the centerpoint and the starting place of our lives, we stand a better chance of realizing the promise of eternal life right now... and not as some off-in-the-distance end time event.  And that kind of positive vibration can be infectious.

Be seen.  Be heard.  Be out as who and what you are.  It takes all kinds to be in this body and we are each making our unique contribution. 


Phoebe McFarlin said...

A thoughtful, challenging sermonette.

Anonymous said...

Well thought through and well written.