We have just concluded one of my favorite weeks in the life of the Church. Over these last several days, I’ve been struck yet again by the depth and continuity of the words and examples we hear in the Scripture lessons appointed for the day. These days since January 18 are filled with examples of holiness, call, and discipleship. (Not bad things to be considering at anytime, but there is something particularly fitting during this annual meeting season.) These days are filled with questions, deep and profound questions.
On January 18 the Church celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. On this day we hear of an encounter with Jesus and the twelve: an encounter where Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” In that moment Peter has the most amazing confession – the most amazing proclamation – of faith. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In the seeming simplicity of this statement is the most profound moment of faith. Peter does not wax on with a lengthy dissertation on the nature of Jesus using complex theological terminology. Peter utters ten words. You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. What Peter does in this is give an unquestionable witness to his faith. Peter in a sense of quiet, strong, confidence indentifies Jesus for who He is: The Messiah. This example Peter sets provides an image, an example, of something we too must consider. When we hear this Gospel it is not just the disciples being asked this question, but it is we ourselves being asked, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a basic question of identity: Who are you? Who is Jesus? But if we take a moment we will discover that this is a question that can – and should – serve as the foundation of our lives of faith. So I ask you dear reader, who do you say that Jesus is?
How the calendar falls, the next day brings us to the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. In the Gospel appoint for this year – year A – we hear John proclaim Jesus as the one he is sent to prepare the way for. As the lesson progresses we learn that two of John’s followers turn and begin to follow Jesus. On noticing this, Jesus turns to them and asks, “What are you looking for?” They ask Jesus where he is staying and he responds, “Come and see.” Jesus not only asks them what they are searching for, but he also offers an invitation. Like these two disciples of John, we to must consider what is it that we are looking for. Are we looking for a social club, community service organization, or a philosophy of life? Or are we looking for a connection with the Holy and to participate in the life of faith handed down to us by our ancestors? When we begin our search, when we inquire where Jesus is going – how Jesus is working on our midst – we are not given an answer but an invitation: Come and see. This invitation from Jesus to come and see stands before us all. It is up to us whether or not we accept that invitation. I wonder, what are you looking for?
A week after the Church remembers the Confession of St. Peter, the calendar keeps us mindful of the Conversion of St. Paul. In the lesson appointed from the Acts of the Apostles, we meet Paul – then known as Saul – traveling on the road to Damascus. On his travels he is knocked off his horse by a blinding light. The resurrected Lord appears to him and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In that moment leads to a drastic change in Saul’s life. He looses his sight, is sent off, and in the midst off all that he is transformed. When he regains his sight we hear that scales fall from his eyes, he sees the world in a new and different way. No longer is he set on persecuting the Church, but instead he becomes the Apostle to the Gentiles. As is common in Biblical stories, with his transformation comes a new name – a way of signifying that he is a new person. No longer is he Saul, but now he is Paul. Whether we like it or not, we do not always live our lives the way we are called to. We deny ourselves; one another; and even Jesus himself. It is in our very nature that we will fall short of the glory of God. While we may not be like Paul and set out to persecute followers of Jesus, we turn our backs and deny God’s presence in our lives. I wonder what our response to Jesus would be if he came to us and asked, “Why do you turn away from me?”
If we stop Paul’s conversion story there, there is a temptation to feel guilty or ashamed. But, that is not the point. The point of this story is conversion and transformation. When we fall short of the glory of God we have the opportunity to do something about it: to have a change of heart; to turn around; think of the Greek word metanoia. Like Paul we can repent and change our ways. We can allow the scales to fall from our eyes, to see the world in new and different ways: to take our place in the transformation and conversion of the world. Will you allow the scales to fall from your eyes, and take your place in the transformation of the world?
All of this brings us to today – the third Sunday after the Epiphany. The Gospel for this morning is all about call. We hear James and John, the sons of Zebedee, leave all they know behind to follow the call they receive from Jesus. What of our own call? How is God working in our lives? How are we called to respond? What are we being called to leave behind as that we may accept the invitation of God to follow him?
In these last eight days, through Holy Scripture, we are asked the: who, what, why, and how of our life of faith. Questions that on the surface seem to be simple and harmless questions. But, we if go deeper – if we allow ourselves to pause and wonder in these questions – we find that they are not so simple. Rather, these questions are life changing. Questions, it seems to me, we must consider if we are to allow our lives to be transformed: if we are to live as mature Christians in the world. In looking at these eight days, these four questions, it seems one question is left to consider. Where do we do all this? Where do we live this out?
We are called to ask and live into these questions in our own time and place: In school and work; at home and at Church; with friends and with strangers. If we take serious our call we will find that our lives of faith are indeed surrounded by these questions. I wonder where you are in your search – in the who, what, why, how, and where of your faith.
Who do you say that Jesus is?
What are you looking for?
Why do you turn your away from Jesus?
How is God calling you?
I pray you will join me in pondering these questions. I hope you will join me in accepting the invitation to come and see.