Thursday, August 20, 2020

Who Are You? (Reflections on Pentecost 12, Year A)

Peter's Confession | Dan McCoig's Sermons 

“But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15b) 

How do you define yourself? What makes you you? Are you your heritage or just the sum of all of your experiences? Do you define yourself by your job? Your nationality? Ethnicity? Religion? Hobbies? If someone asked you to define yourself, what would you say? Or is it that others define us? Do we rely on the people in our lives to tell us who we are? 

In the Gospel lesson for Pentecost 12, Year A (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks an existential question: Who do people say that I am? He’s really confronting the disciples at this pivotal point in his earthly ministry. Do people get what this is all about? He’s shown them some miracles, performed lots of healings, and fed thousands of people. Now he wants to know if everyone is getting the message. Clearly the Pharisees don’t get it because they still want to see some magic tricks before they’ll commit to recognizing Jesus’ authority (see 16:1-4). But Jesus won’t jump through hoops for them. He wants them to recognize with their own minds what their experience with him means. He wants them to be open to seeing God at work.

 The important question for us, then, is: Who do you say Jesus is? If a stranger asked you to define Jesus based on the impact Jesus has on your life, what would you say?

 I know what I’d say. The older I get, the less I think of Jesus as the one who suffered and died for me. Rather, I think of him as the one who suffers and dies with me. His frustrations, his losses, his failing body on the cross, his patience with ridicule and misunderstanding—all of this gives my experience meaning. Because the divine Son was willing to share my situation—even to the  point of doing the slave’s job and washing the feet of the disciples—the whole human experience has been made holy. That makes my experience and your experience holy too. And for that I give thanks.

 If we define ourselves by anything, let’s define ourselves by our relationship with Christ. In Christ we have no reason to make comparisons or evaluations. That’s why St. Paul told the church in Rome (Romans 12:1-8) and all of us today to think of ourselves with sober judgment. There’s no scale or measure of worth or importance in the holy life Jesus sanctified. Each of us has a place in it, and that place isn’t to be defined by the world’s standards of success or fame or prestige. We are not conformed to the world, but we are transformed through Christ by the renewing of our minds.

 You can be you because Jesus is Jesus—and he made being you holy.

 Peace be with you!

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