He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
[Matthew 16:15-16 NRSV]
A personal confession: This text has deep personal meaning for me on a couple of different levels. First, it was the gospel text that was preached on the day of my ordination, which fell on January 18th, 2003, the feast of the Confession of St. Peter.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years. I can still remember the day as if it were yesterday. I don’t remember what Bishop Marcus Miller preached that day. I was so overwhelmed by the entire day that the details of the sermon were buried by other memories and the emotions I was feeling.
I wrote the following in my journal a couple of days later (I didn’t know what a blog was back then, so my thoughts were committed to paper).
It was absolutely the best day of my life. I cried uncontrollably. To see people whom I had known at various stages of my life all together because of me was overwhelming. It was an affirmation that I had been seeking all my life. I thank God for allowing me to witness what many people don’t see in their lifetime.
One of the most vivid scenes was the procession. I had sensed at the rehearsal that I would cry at this point and sure enough, I did.
At some other point I hope to reflect more on that day. A lot has happened in ten years and I’m not where I expected to be at this point, although I consider it more important to be where God expects me to be.
The second thought this gospel brings to mind is the day of my first interview with the entrance committee shortly after I had declared my intention to be a candidate for the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The conversation was going rather well and as the interview was about to end I was asked the question by one of the committee members, “Who is Jesus for you?”
“What a strange question,” I thought. I began to stammer and stutter and, after what I thought was an eternity of stumbling, bumbling and fumbling for an answer, I began reciting parts of the Apostle’s Creed and everything else I could think of that mentioned Jesus. Finally I just stopped and admitted that I really hadn’t given that question a great deal of thought.
Now you might think that a rather bizarre confession for a pastor to make. But at that time, it was really something that I had never explored deeply. I had been involved with the church for most of my life. Since being baptized at seven months I have had a relationship that I felt was second nature with Jesus Christ. As an adult I had been involved in teaching Sunday School, coaching youth basketball teams, doing some lay preaching, serving on church councils and committees, attending assemblies and representing my congregation in whatever capacity I could; but I had never given any real intense thought as to who Jesus was for me.
So I pose to you, the reader, the same question today. Who do you say Jesus is?
I would suggest to you that that is the most urgent, the most relevant, the most essential question that confronts us today. Wherever we turn in life we are faced with the implications of this question.
Is Jesus your Messiah, or just some guy that lived 2000 years ago?
Are you willing to confess Jesus as the Son of the living God at work, or at school, or in the mall, or merely within the safe confines of your church on Sunday?
Jesus is what makes us different. Jesus is what keeps us alive!
Without a sense of who Jesus is for you, life is just something that happens to you while you are busy making other plans, to echo John Lennon.
Fortunately for me, the candidacy committee accepted my babbling response that day; and that cleared the path to my ordination ten years ago on this date. I owe that all to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On this day of the confession of St. Peter, hear again the question that Jesus asks us again and again, “Who do you say that I am?”
How will you respond?