Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 16:13-16
Over the past several years I have had the privilege to serve as a curriculum writer for our Annual Conference’s Camp and Retreats Ministries. It is a very humbling experience to be a member of these writing teams. I am always in awe of what the Holy Spirit brings about through opportunities for learning, fun, and fellowship for the campers as a result of these teams working together. And I am always in awe of the impact our God makes through the contributions of these writing teams.
Sometimes I can feel so small. Usually in those moments I dash to find a stellar pair of stilettos, but when that does not help, I think back on the experiences in my life when I have opened myself up to be used by God. I am one person, but where two or more are gathered, our God is present and our God is able to do infinitely more than we can ever imagine. Opening ourselves up to be part of our God’s imagining, that is the true stuff of miracles.
Last year one of the curriculum writer’s ideas was to open up space for campers to write down questions of faith that would be answered by their age-level worship leader before the end of the week. I had the sweet opportunity to be both a curriculum writer and a worship leader last summer so I knew what I was in for…but I was in no way prepared for the depth of the faith questions asked by my Week 8 rising 6th-8th graders.
Some of their questions were…
- Where are the dinosaurs!? (One of my personal favorites.)
- Do I have to believe everything in the Bible?
- Do I have to read and understand the Bible the same way as my parents, youth leader, or pastor?
- I’m not sure if I’m saved. I accepted Jesus, but then I sinned. Am I still saved? Does God still love me?
- I’m not sure about God; I’m not sure I believe. Does that make me a bad person?
- When Jesus says “Love your neighbor” does he really mean every neighbor?
These are only a few of their questions…and I had around 20 minutes to answer as many as I could, not to mention the follow-up questions that came up during our short time together!
These campers asked deep questions of faith that revealed deep longing for greater understanding of God and, I believe, greater belonging with God.
During the Season of Lent, which begins with our Service of Ashes on Wednesday evening at 7pm, we will ponder Seven Questions of Faith. I am hopeful that through this season we will grow in greater understanding of who our Lord is, who we are, and who and how we are in relationship together.
We begin this week with the question, “Who is Jesus?” This was a popular question in the First Century after Jesus started his public ministry. People could not believe that the miracles and ministry coming from Jesus could be the same person born of Mary in humble Bethlehem and run out of Nazareth by his neighbors. Others did not want to give Jesus credit for how he was declaring the glory of the Lord through his ministry; surely he had to be Moses, or Elijah, or another of the prophets. For so long God’s people waited and hoped for their Messiah, their anointed one, their Savior…and yet here (there) he was…and they could not believe.
Rather than defending himself or offering an apologetic for who he is, Jesus turns to his disciples to answer “Who am I?” Peter answers this deep question of faith boldly and, in so doing, reveals his greater understanding about who Jesus is and his greater belonging in relationship with Jesus.
I encourage you to take time this week to answer for yourself, “Who Is Jesus?” Write down your answer in a journal. Talk about your answer around the dinner table with your family or when you are out enjoying time with friends. Consider how your understanding of who Jesus is has changed over time and perhaps is still changing. What have you learned about who Jesus is? What have you learned about yourself in learning about who Jesus is?
Prayer: “His name is wonderful, his name is wonderful, his name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord. He is the mighty King, Master of everything; his name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord. He’s the great Shepherd, the Rock of all ages, almighty God is he; bow down before him, love and adore him, his name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord!”* Amen.
*”His Name Is Wonderful,” The United Methodist Hymnal 174.