“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?………. But who do you say that I am?”
Jesus, in Matthew 16:13-20.
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are…..I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Kurt Cobain
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asking the disciples what other people are saying about who he is in a place of worldly power and politics, Caesarea Philippi. Their replies matter to him and some of them say that he is John the Baptist whilst others suggest Elijah, Jeremiah or a prophet – they can’t agree. However, Jesus then asks, “But who do you say I am?” and when Peter replies that he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus blesses him as Simon son of Jonah and tells him that God, not people, has revealed this to him. Jesus goes on to say that he will build his church on the rock that is Peter and a new name and identity is given to him which reflects the trust Jesus is placing in him.
The significance of Peter’s new name and identity is important – if ever my parents called me Christine Mary as a child, I knew I was in some trouble although they are actually my names. However, if my father called me Sarah Bernhardt, after the famous actress, I knew the trouble was serious and that no amount of acting nonchalantly would get me out of it!
In serious trouble in the news this week is the paediatric nurse Lucy Letby whom parents thought they could trust – although that trust was misplaced as she killed at least seven and harmed at least six babies. Nurses are traditionally called angels but she was termed a devil by some, although the name Lucy means light. Equally, Donald Trump has been in the news in connection with his indictment for election fraud – the name Donald means proud chief or world leader, but the mugshot that’s been released shows him in a rather different light. Trust was placed in both Letby and Trump as they exercised the worldly power accorded to them both but many now see this as being misplaced although both still have their supporters. At Caesarea Philippi, a centre of worldly and political power, Peter earned and deserved the spiritual trust that Jesus the Messiah – also meaning leader – placed in him. Is the same true of us?
Peter did go on to serve Jesus faithfully and, according to tradition, become the first Pope – but not before he denied and then deserted Jesus after his arrest. The Messiah chose ordinary working people to help him build the kingdom of heaven here on earth and sometimes they fulfilled what he saw in them just as they sometimes failed him. That is so for all of us as we struggle with the shadows of our characters and lives as well as the light and potential which we may/not be able to fulfil. Who we are is sometimes difficult for others – or even ourselves – to accept, as Kurt Cobain suggests, but just as Jesus saw his potential, so Peter was able to look beyond the immediate and see Jesus the Messiah bearing the Name above all Names before him.
At a time when church attendance has declined by 24% of all adults in the last twenty years what is God building afresh in his church, the communities they serve and our lives today? What do we need to look beyond to glimpse what could be as well as what is – and, as Jesus asked his followers then, so he continues to ask us today, “Who do you say I am?”
With my prayers; pob bendith,
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