Who Do You Say that I Am?
The following sermon was preached by Amy Kienzle, LSTC Senior M. Div. student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, September 21, 2006.
This week's theme for worship has been 'Who Do You Say that I Am?' Yesterday we heard Peter's confession from Mark's gospel. It is a story many of us know well. Jesus was journeying with his disciples toward Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking Jesus asked them what the buzz was about him among the crowds. "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples offer up a few names well known among the group. Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets. Of course this initial question was just priming the pump for the heart of the matter. What Jesus really wants to know is, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter is bold to speak up, "You are the Messiah." Messiah, an identification that carried much baggage. The hopes and expectations of this rag tag band of Jews, our hopes and expectations. But Jesus was more than any of our thoughts about Messiah. Who is Jesus? Who are we?
Who do we say that we are? Some say students, others teachers, still others parents, siblings, friends. There are many titles and labels that we place on ourselves. Each describes something about us, but not everything. Then there are other titles that are imposed upon us. Even the well-intended labels can be confining, restrictive, burdensome as we try to meet the expectations of others.
Other labels are explicitly intended for harm or to put us in our place. Assaults and insults intended to break us down, deny our worth, keep us silent.
But there is one name that frees us from the burden of expectation that the world places on us. One name that gives us courage and strength to be what we are called to be – witnesses to the message that is uniquely ours. God's love and care for us made real in Jesus Christ. Christ -- the Name. Through baptism the name by which we all are named, children of the same God.
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words: "I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me…Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together." As those who bear the Name we have been united for the sake of one another and for the sake of the world. So when one is contended against and faces discrimination, personal attack, prejudice or hatred we all face it. We all feel the sting, lest we ever think we are alone.
Gail Ramshaw in her book Words Around the Table says this: "When I am ashamed of who I am, and when my name is shoveled about, my comfort is not only that such is the lot of all children of humanity. Rather my comfort rests in God's baptismal claim, the I AM, divine mercy which gives me a family far beyond the wholesome or dreadful human family which is mine, a family of all those who in God are named with Christ's name, and finally, the family of God's loving self."
We have been named and claimed. We are here in this place together because in various ways we have all heard God's voice calling out to us. As those who bear Christ's name in the world, let us stand up together. Amen.