Theme: “Who are you?”
1st Scripture Reading: Exodus 1:8 – 2:10 & Psalm 124
Reflection: Who we are in the world is pretty important, isn’t it? Some of us don’t think much about it at all – and some of us obsess about it all the time! Our identity and our reputation kind of defines us as we move through our lives. We are a daughter or a son, we have a college degree or we don’t, we are a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or an atheist. We are working, or unemployed, disabled, or retired – and all of these are broad strokes, with an infinite variety of permutations and combinations, and possibilities ad infinitum!
I sat in a workshop for two hours with a First Nations elder/teacher who had each of us recite our female ancestors starting with our mothers and aunts, sisters and cousins, and going as far back as we knew. It took forever, but nobody moved, nobody left – it was somehow fascinating and important – I felt validated and empowered by it. I doubt it would have been interesting at all if we weren’t listening to each other. Who we are has a lot to do with the people around us.
We heard the story of Joseph and the Egyptians last week. Joseph who had initially been a slave, sold by his brothers to a caravan of Egyptians, became a leader, a trusted person with a lot of power and influence – because of who he was- because of the wisdom and foresight he demonstrated to his captors when his predictions came true.
But time had passed. Joseph had returned home and died. A generation or two had come and gone of the Israelites in Egypt. They had multiplied and become threatening because of their numbers to the ruling elite in Egypt. More and more they were oppressed, abused, and exploited – but still their numbers grew. Pharoah decided on more drastic measures. Kill all the boy babies of the Israelites.
Skipping ahead, we now see Moses as a newborn, protected by his mother as long as she could do that, and then put in a basket afloat in the reedy banks of the river – the river where Pharoah’s daughter went to bathe. Long story short, Moses is rescued by Pharoah’s daughter, and his sister who had been watching, suggests a wet nurse for the child – who of course turns out to be his birth mother. All very serendipitous don’t you think? If you’re not religious you might call this just plain old luck, or providence. Why should Moses of all the boy babies be saved? Why did Joseph become so wealthy and influential? Both came from very difficult beginnings – both seem somehow blessed by something...grace? luck? Good fortune? The psalmist says: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
So is there a Higher Power at work here? Are some people called out to perform certain functions, certain missions, in the general flow of our history?
What we do know, or think we know, is that we all have certain characteristics or gifts or talents that seem to show up over time, and if nurtured, mature as we do into the adult version of who we are. Some of us become musicians, or teachers, or plumbers, or sales clerks, or hairdressers. Some are builders, architects, scientists or nurses. I have heard First Nations people say that every child born into the community has a gift to offer to the wellbeing of the community. They say they watch for it, and then they encourage and nurture it. What an amazing spiritual gift to give a child – to know that he or she is an important part of the village or tribe literally from the time of birth!
Who are you? What gifts do you have to offer to the people with whom you live? And from where do those gifts, those blessings come?
Hymn #559 VU “Come O Fount of Every Blessing”
2nd Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8 & Matthew 16:13-20
Reflection: The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Romans, is defining for all of us what it means to be a disciple, a people of God. Paul was a teacher and a preacher. His gifts were in that area, and he expressed himself as a child of God with those gifts.
Paul said: “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”
If who we are has something to do with being in relationship to other people, then Paul has just been telling us how that works. There is no mission of teaching if there is no one to teach, no ministry if there is no need of it, no leadership if there is no one to lead. We are who we are in relation to other people, and I dare say to all of God’s Creation.
For everything around us is in some kind of relationship to everything else: predator/prey, lover & beloved, exploiter/exploited, user & used, caregiver and person in need of care, rich and poor, powerful and weak, oppressor/oppressed.
So who we are is not a label – not a static thing. Who we are is dynamic and ever-changing as our relationships change as we live our lives in the world. As people of God, who we are has lots to do with mission and ministry – what are we called to do with our lives? What gifts have we been given for the good of all?
Who, then, was this man called Jesus? Son of Man, he called himself often – in full acknowledgement of his humanity. So that was part of his identity, and it changed over time. He was a son, a student, a carpenter maybe, a teacher and preacher, a healer and a miracle worker. But that’s not all, is it? Emmanuel, God-with-us , he is the very embodiment of the idea of Divine Perfection. As such he is called “the Christ” demonstrating arguably the highest spiritual expression of God the world has ever seen.
“Who do you say that I am?” Can we recognize the Divine expression in human form as something we all have the potential to express? Do we know ourselves as spiritual beings with spiritual gifts to be offered to this world – to all of Creation, to this world that God so loves? Can we see that Jesus came to teach us who we really are – that we are indeed unique and precious expressions of the Divine with holy missions to accomplish and ministries both small and large to live out in this lifetime. As we move forward, how then shall we live?
“How then shall I live” ....... (Sing Hallelujah! - Linnea Good)
But many of us are older now – we have done our work in the world. Hopefully we can look back with some satisfaction, as Paul was able to do, knowing that we did our best and that we have earned our rest.
But is it over folks? Are we really done? Jesus prime commandment rings in our ears: “Love one another as I have loved you.” As we continue in this life to express Divine Love as points of living discipleship, we continue to serve God’s purpose in the world.
And as members of the Body of Christ, and citizens of God’s world, let us sing:
Hymn #154 MV “Deep in Our Hearts”