From Pastor Kenny's Desk
August 23, 2020
Greetings MCC Richmond Family,
The sacred text for this coming Sunday is Matthew 16:13-20 (click here to read the text). I find this conversation between Jesus and the disciples absolutely fascinating. Jesus asks what’s being said about him, to whom do people compare him, and who do people say that he is like? If you think about it, it’s not too different from when we compare famous sports figures or politicians to someone in the same profession we see as successful or one who sets and raises the bar for excellence. The disciples reply in just that manner … they say you are like John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other all-time-greats of the time.
Being an amazing teacher Jesus then asks the question behind the question. All of a sudden the disciples find Jesus getting up close and personal by asking them: Who do YOU say that I am? I imagine this was likely the most important question Jesus ever asked them. My hunch is it is also the most important question he asks of us.
Who do you say that I am? The crowds had their answer. Peter had his. The questions is: what will we answer? What bold statements and confession will we make … if any? Who do we imagine Jesus to be in comparison to the powers of our country, or the power that comes with the wealth we accumulate, or our status within the community or our jobs or within our church, or the influence we hope to make? Who is Jesus to us? How would you answer this simple question?
My hunch is that while many of us believe Jesus is the Messiah … the Redeemer of us ALL, we may not have put in words what Jesus and the Creator mean to us. It can be really hard to put into words what we believe and who Jesus is in our lives … let alone the Creator of All that is! Too often we allow the words of others to give definition of our faith and understanding of who God and Jesus are in our lives and why.
Here’s a challenge: take some time and write what you mean when you say Jesus is the Savior of the world. Using your own words how would you describe your relationship with God and Jesus? How would you describe Jesus to someone who has never heard of him? Maybe a colleague, or friend, or someone who randomly happens to ask you about Jesus. What would you say? Once you come up with your explanation go a step further and share it with someone.
I know this can be intimidating and a little scary. Here’s what I might say … I believe Jesus is God’s way of showing us how much God loves us and ALL people. God is so big that I think we have a hard time connecting with God. So God came through Jesus to be like one of us, to live like one of us, to show us how God feels about us. By doing this for us, Jesus revealed God’s heart … a heart that aches with all who suffer depression and think seriously about ending their lives, a heart that is upset and angry when a black person is killed for no reason other than being black, a heart that is torn up in grief by those who govern with an attitude of power and control, a heart that breaks every time anyone is oppressed and dehumanized, a heart that cries out every time an immigrant family is separated, every time a transgender person is abused and shunned, every time an LGBTQIA+ person is marginalized, a heart that suffers from the horrors of systemic racism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, gender identity and gender bigotry, and every one of societies systems that seek to oppress, degrade, and de-value people, a heart that loves us like only an adoring parent can and so not only wants the best for us but is always eager to welcome us home with grace, forgiveness, and love.
I think Jesus also came to show us what’s possible. Rather than giving into the threat of disease, Jesus healed. Rather than surrender people to demons, Jesus showed compassion. Rather than let people starve because there’s not enough to go around, Jesus fed people who were hungry. Jesus refused to be satisfied or limited by the status quo and invites us to do the same, because if Jesus’ life shows us how much God loves us, Jesus’ resurrection shows us that love is more powerful than hate and fear … even death. Jesus shows us that God’s love ALWAYS wins.
So there it is. It’s certainly not perfect, nor is it intended to be and will likely change with the many realities of life. Here’s what I’m hoping the result of this exercise will be and mean for us as a spiritual community. As we write what we believe it will help us own and connect to our faith and spirituality in a way that empowers us and motivates us to share God’s transforming love with others. I hope we will discover and embrace more clearly God’s many gifts of love, making us more aware of God’s grace and the power of Jesus’ life, ministry and resurrection, and that all this will help us look at our lives … our time, our relationships, our hopes, dreams, finances and all the rest through the lens of the power and possibilities created by seeing and claiming God’s love for us and ALL people.
May our own words of God’s love and interaction in our lives be meaningful to us by shaping every part of our lives with power, possibility and endless love.
~ Pastor Kenny Callaghan