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Who Do You Say I Am?

Pentecost 16, Common Lectionary Year B

Mark 8: 27-38

©2015 Rev Elisabeth R. Jones
“Who do you say I am?”
If you were to turn to the person
sitting next to you today,
and ask them, about yourself,
“Who do you say I am?”
what do you think would be the response?

Well, that depends upon a lot, doesn’t it?
Perhaps you’re sitting next to a complete stranger,
a visitor, or you are the visitor!
Or, perhaps it’s your life partner,
or the child you just had an almighty row with
in the car!
Who would they say you are, right now?!

How anybody responds to that question
about you
depends upon the type of connection you have;
have they known you forever,
or only in the context of Sunday morning?
What space are they in? You?
Your work colleagues, your golf buddies,
your support group,
all would have a slightly different answer to that same question.
And I’m sure that there are some folk in our lives
that we would be fearful to even ask,
dreading their answer.

“Who do you say I am?”
It’s scary to ask that question!
(And in case you’re squirming, right now,
don’t worry, I shall not put you on the spot!)
But I did put myself on the spot earlier this week.
I sent out a random FB and email request
to people who have been connected to my life,
in two continents, over at least three of my last decades,
“Who do you say I am?”

I can tell you, it took some courage to hit “send.”
And an equal amount to read the responses!

Would they tell me things I don’t want to know about myself?
Would they uncover my secret shame,
out my least attractive qualities to others in the experiment,
would they have a clue about my deepest passions, my hidden goals?
Would they be too kind (I think so!)
Will they ‘hit the nail on the head’ –
and mirror for me what I most want to be in the world?
Or would they miss by a mile?

Doing this experiment has given me
a whole new insight into
just how much courage it must have taken Jesus
to ask that question.
“Who do people say I am?
Who do YOU say I am?”

Why?
Why ask?
What was so critical about asking that question
at that moment, in that place, of those people?

It happens, in Mark’s Gospel,
at the centre-point, the mid-point, the pivot point
in Jesus’ ministry, his life.
Up to now, Jesus has been
going about the Galilee, being….. Jesus.
A teacher,
an exorcist,
a healer,
and empire critic,
a Sabbath re-maker,
reclaiming it for the mercy of God,
from the custodians of dead traditionalism.
The more he was… well him…
the more attention he got,
and the more trouble he was getting into.

I think that’s why it mattered
to stop, and have the courage to ask his question;
“Who do you say I am?”

We all need that, don’t we?
At critical times in our lives,
we need to stop, take stock,
and often we summon up the courage
“Who do you say I am?”

The gay couple awash in diapers and burp cloths,
desperate to know they’re doing a okay as new parents
“Who do you say I am?”
“You’re great dads. You’ll be fine.”

The dying mother, needing the reassurance that
her love has shaped her kids well for a future without her.

So too with Jesus.
At this pivot point in his life,
when he had come to the realization
that to live the Dream of God
would likely cost him everything,
acclaim, success, life itself,
it mattered to Jesus to ask,
“Who do people say I am?”

“Does what I have been, what I have done,
who I am, make the difference in the world
that I wish, and pray it would do?”

In asking that question, and hearing their answers,
he turns the question on those of us who respond.

“He called the crowd and the disciples and said….
If you want to follow me, it’s going to be the same for you too….
you need to ask the same question.
“Who will people say you are?
Will what you do,
will what you are,
make the difference in the world that you
wish and pray it will do?”

Who will people say we are,
we who claim, try, to follow this Jesus?

If I can bring this home with one issue, it is the one laying heaviest on my heart and soul, after spending the past 10 days in Europe, while the Syrian Refugee crisis has become ever more pressing.

Contrast these two “Christian” responses:
While Hungary polices and fences it borders, claiming the right to protect its so-called “Christian heritage” from the influx of predominantly Muslim refugees,
and while other governments including our own, have exhibited a pitiful bureaucratic club-footedness,
Pope Francis has issued a call to the 120,000 Catholic parishes of Europe to open their doors to a Syrian refugee family,
stating, “The Gospel calls us, asks us to be neighbours of the smallest and most abandoned.”

“Who do you say I am?”
Who will people say we are, the people of Cedar Park?

What can we do?
Who will we be, as followers of Christ, in this particular situation?

1st: We can pray. All of us. Prayer is powerful.

2nd:We can support those already working with refugees,
by joining the CPU team,
or sponsor one of us riding in the Ride for Refuge on October 3rd

3rd: We can let our electoral candidates know
how much this matters to us to
that Canada return to those values
of welcome and inclusion,
such that funds and resources be dedicated
to a national response worthy of the scope of this crisis.

4th: We can and shall inform ourselves about the crisis, learn what effective and appropriate responses we can make as a community of faith.
In the coming days I will be talking with Paul, Social Justice, and you, to figure out how we can take up this particular cross, answer this particular Gospel call.

Because the world, God, is asking us who we are.

And I pray,
Let our answer be
“We are followers of Jesus Christ,
called to live the dream of God
to love our neighbour,
to feed the hungry,
to shelter the regugee,
to heal the sick,
to advocate for justice,
and with astounding humility,
to speak truth to power.

Who do you say you are?

Amen.

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