December 31, 2012

A New Year's Invitation

"He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’" Matthew 16:15
Jesus asks the disciples.  Simon answers -- bold, impetuous Simon -- presumably for them all, and for us:   "‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’"  And Jesus praises him and renames him Peter.

Simon tells Jesus who he is.  Jesus tells Simon who he is.

Who do you say that I am?

If we ask, we'd best be prepared to hear the answer.  Simon didn't become the Rock in that moment.  Peter is who he always was.  In claiming what he knows to be true about Jesus, he opens himself to what is true about himself.  As do we.  Like Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:  "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."  No longer I, but Christ.  No longer Simon, the old man, but Peter (cf. especially Colossians 3:9-10).

The old man -- woman -- is familiar.  She knows who she is.  Limited.  Mistake-prone.  Proud.  A bit vain.  Kinda lazy.  I know her.  I know her past, what has led her to this moment.  I know what she does and doesn't do.  I know her name.

But who do you say that I am?

Israel was awaiting the Messiah because it meant that the exile from the promised land would finally be at an end and God would become king.  Israel's true nature would finally be made known; the whole wide world would recognize Israel as God's chosen, God's Son.  And what is true of Israel is true of humanity, of which Israel is the chosen remnant.  So -- follow me here -- what is true of the Messiah is true of Israel, and what is true of Israel is true of humankind.  And what is true of humankind is true of me.

Because of Him.  No longer I, but Christ.

Who does God say that I am?

What is it that you know, in your deepest place, is true of you.  What is the grace that you hide?  That you hesitate to name?  What are you gifted to do?  What are you blessed to give to the world?  What is your passion?  What brings you joy?  I cannot say it better than theologian Frederick Buechner, but allow me to make it a question:  “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”   Where is that place for you?

We are on the eve of a new year.  I love new beginnings, probably because I make a lot of mistakes and like the chance to start fresh.  Fortunately, as the author of Lamentations says (3:2-23a): 
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,   his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning..."
We stand, you and me and the whole wide world, on the cusp of a new morning, a new day, a new year.  Join me in asking the very one who gives us our names:  Who do you say that I am?  And be ready to embrace the answer.  And live it.

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