A Letter from the Associate Minister for Outreach to Pittsburgh Presbytery
But Who Do You Say I Am?
May 22, 2014
Jesus was away from the crowds – those multitudes who were interested in him – and alone with a few disciples when he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples offered some quick answers, – “Some say John the Baptist” – “Some say Elijah” – “Some say Jeremiah” – “Some say a risen prophet.” It seems that his disciples were too ready to offer quick answers to what the world thought of him.
But, instead of refuting or accepting their answers, Jesus became more specific and invited them to answer the question in a personal and vulnerable way: “But who do you say that I am?” With this question he pushed them beyond the safety of stating what others thought of him – beyond the impersonal assessment – and asked them to answer for themselves, “But who do you say that I am?” He asks them to become vulnerable in their answers.
In her memoir, When We Were on Fire, Addie Zeirman described Googling for images of Christ and was surprised with the search results of more than seven million images. In her book, she detailed a small sampling of the images – Da Vinci’s Italian Christ with His long brown hair – the Ethiopian Jesus of the 17th century with His afro and halo of light – the Chinese Christ presiding over the last supper with long black hair parted down the middle – the Indian Jesus seated with crossed legs in a pose of meditation. And then she made this confession of faith, “…astounded by the sheer volume of images and perspectives, by the ease with which this God is translated into a hundred thousand cultures. He is big enough, complex enough, wide and broad and deep enough to speak to all of them.”
“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus invites us – just as he did the disciples – to answer this in a personal way, where we must reflect on what we have heard him say and seen him do. “But who do you say that I am?” We must answer this from his revelation and out of our experience of his love so that at times we say might say something like, “the Advocate.” At other times, “The Rescuer.” Still other times, “The Peacemaker” – “Our Lover” – “The Messiah!” And, then on some days, we confess that He is, “the Seemingly Silent One.” Or, “the Distant One.” Or, “The-One-who-will-not-go-quietly-into-the-box-of-my-creation-or-fit-neatly-within-my-limits!” And, then there are times when we can only remain silent like most of the disciples did. Perhaps, we are silent because we do not know what to say or because we are unwilling to accept Jesus’ invitation to enter that vulnerable space with Him. But, there is good news bursting forth from that pointed question – God is big enough and wide enough and broad enough to receive our answers in these days of change.
“But who do you say that I am?” Maybe, when that still small voice enters your mind and asks you that question and invites you to answer, you can become vulnerable with him and say, “You are Enough!”
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
With you and vulnerable too,
The Rev. Ayana H. Teter, Associate Minister for Outreach to Pittsburgh Presbytery
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