Who Do You Say That I Am?

Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd                              Mark 8:27-33        Feb 4, 2018

 

Who do you say that I am? Since the days of Jesus’ own life on earth, people have been asking this question. Jesus was familiar with the confused interest in this question, which he then posed to his disciples.

“Who do people say that I am?”

One disciple answered, “John the Baptist come back to life. Another disciple replied, Elijah, who is to return with the coming of the Messiah. Yet another disciple answered, “A prophet of old.”

“But who do you say that I am?”

The disciples met this question with silence, until Peter spoke up courageously, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one come to save our people.”

According to the Gospel of Mark and of Luke, Jesus didn’t agree or disagree with Peter’s response. He simply told them not to tell anyone.

Why the silence? Perhaps because these were dangerous words that would most certainly have led to his death. Some would accuse him of blasphemy, while others would accuse him of sedition, both of which were death sentences. He knew that his time had not yet come.

Who does the church say that Jesus is? The Apostle’s Creed, one of the earliest creeds of the church, emphasizes Jesus’ humanity in order to refute heresies that denied his human nature.

Gord  “I am born of Mary, a Jew in first century Palestine, blood of blood, flesh of flesh. I shared in the passion of all humanity. I know laughter and love. I know hunger and thirst. I know denial, oppression and abuse. I know suffering and torture. I know agonizing death. Whatever humanity—indeed all of creation—goes through, I know through my own experience of body and blood. I am with you in your sorrow and in your joy.”

The Nicene Creed emphasized Jesus’ divine nature, refuting heresies that denied his divinity.

Shirley “I am Emmanuel, God with us. Through me, God has walked this earth, lent a healing touch, forgiven sins, blessed you with peace, assured you of new life and eternal rest. I am of God and with God. Together, we have created this earth and will redeem it.”

The United Church inherits this belief in the divinity and humanity of Christ Jesus. But what does this mean for us?

Denise “I am the liberator of the poor. In my name, the oppressed find strength to rise up and find voice. I give the marginalized dignity and take away their shame. They, too, are my beloved, and my love gives them courage to confront the colonizing powers of domination and dehumanization.”

Elaine “I am the peacemaker. I break down the walls that divide and join hands across chasms of hate and fear. I bring forgiveness for the enemy and allw bitter opponents to see the humanity in each other.

Denise “ I am a boundary crosser. I challenge people who dismiss “the other” with simplistic dualisms of male vs. female, of white vs. colour, of poor vs. rich, of settler vs. indigenous. Life is much more complex than this. Power shifts with identity. I am male and female, white and black, poor and rich, settler and indigenous. I have power and I have none. I am all and nothing. I am a shape-shifter in whom boundaries shall be crossed and the least shall be the greatest.”

Nancy “I am a rabbi—a teacher of wisdom. I speak in parables that are difficult to understand, unless you seek to learn deep truths that take you much further than sound-bite platitudes. I teach of the soul, where the mind and the heart learn from each other, where justice and kindness meet.

Earl   “I am a healer of mind and body, spirit and soul. I am a miracle-maker, Spirit-giver. I breathe into those lonely and alone the assurance of companionship. I smooth the wrinkled brow of the worried and distressed. I strengthen the weakened body while preparing the dying for the transition to the next life. Life and death, held together in peace.”

Tom   “I am the crucified one. I protest with every cell of my body against the forces of hate and evil. And yet I know they persist and suffering continues. I have agonized in prayer over God’s absence: ‘Why, O Lord, have you forsaken me?’ I have tried to escape suffering: ‘Take this cup from me.’ But in the end, I suffer and I die because of the sins of the world. Suffering, in itself, is never good. But suffering can yield compassion and understanding. Suffering allows us to drink deeply from the well of wisdom. I guide those who suffer with me through the valley of the shadow of death.”

Earl   “I am the resurrected one. Love—not hate nor fear—has the last word. I am wisdom who, in the beginning, co-created this earth and all its creatures. I am Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one who has come to usher in a new era where the lion and the lamb shall rest together. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. I am the impossible laughter of ragged children playing in a garbage dump. I am a gun barrel bent into a vase for flowers. I am the tears falling onto clasped, gnarled hands of a German and a Jew. I am the memorial candle softening the hijab-framed face of grief. I am hope in the midst of hopelessness.

How do we live out these beliefs in Jesus?

Tom   “Through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Christ is re-membered through his story that becomes ours. We remember his broken body and receive the Bread of Life. We remember his blood poured out and receive the cup of a new covenant, in communion with one another.”

 

Elaine “We are the body of Christ. The risen Christ lives through us; through our words and actions, through our thoughts and feelings. When we open our heart to God, Christ loves through us. When we cast our thoughts on God, Christ gives us wisdom and words. When we offer our hands and our feet to God, Christ serves others through us.

             Amen.