Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
If you’ve ever had to spend more than a few minutes around children of a certain age, you will be more than familiar with their ability to innocently question all kinds of things.
Evie, our daughter who is now seven, is still full of questions. From, ‘Mum, Dad, how can I get a baby?’, to ‘Where does Jesus live now?’
The, often candid and unexpected, questions that children ask mirror so many of our own questions. Questions that all of us ask at some stage about life and death and faith.
In today’s gospel reading, we encounter a question which is the central turning point in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life. This time, though, it is not the disciples who are doing the asking, but Jesus himself.
He asks them, ‘Who do you say I am?’
This is a question which takes us to the very heart of our own faith. For each one of us — whether we have only recently begun to consider Jesus and his teachings, or have been churchgoers our whole lives — this question will at some point become unavoidable. And as the life of faith continues, it is a question we may well find ourselves returning to time and time again.
Who is Jesus to us in our lives? And once we’ve decided, how will we respond?
There are many different answers to this question, some of which are more uncomfortable than others. And some of which are more convenient.
For many people, it is convenient to characterise Jesus as a great teacher — one amongst many ancient voices of wisdom. And that’s okay.
But for some of us, I pray that, like me, you will have discovered that Jesus really is something special. That Jesus is not just a long dead teacher, but a living person with whom we are able to have the most incredible relationship in our lives today. Like Peter, we find ourselves able to say, ‘You are the Son of the living God.’
If we have pressed into a faith which is living, growing and changing, then our answer to this simple question, ’who do you say I am?’, will be different at different points in our lives.
When all is going well, we might say, ‘Jesus, you are my joy, my source of blessing and generosity.’ But crucially, when times are at their hardest, we might say, ‘Jesus, you are the one I need to comfort me, to help carry me through.’
It is this living relationship with the one who has created us and saved us, the one who carries us through difficult times, the one who promises to never leave us alone, which lies at the heart of faith.
It is a relationship which draws us in, which matures with us, which comes to define who we are. We are made part of a body, Christ’s body, a living representation of God’s presence in the world. A body through which Christ is able to minister, in kindness and humble service, to the world.
A body, which is not made up of dead limbs, but of living sacrifices. Ordinary lives offered in thankful service.
I wonder how you would respond to Jesus’ question today? ‘Who do you say I am?’
Who do you need Jesus to be in your life at the moment? A bringer of joy, or a gentle comforter? An encourager and enlivener, or a challenging mentor?
And how might this living faith play out in your ordinary life this week?
One modern adaptation of our reading from Romans reframes Paul’s words like this,
‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.’Romans 12. 1 (The Message)
Will you allow Jesus to be at work in your life? To work through you, in the everyday, to bless, comfort and heal the people around you? Whether livelong friends or people you pass in the supermarket?
So, as we gather once again to worship, may we respond to God wholeheartedly, held safe in the love that gives us our being.