Sermons

Sun, Aug 27, 2017

Who am I?

Series:Sermons

If I were to ask you the question, "Who am I?"...

how would you respond?

 

I suspect that the immediate response of many of you--

sitting there--

would be to think to yourselves something like:

I'm Craig, your minister.

Perhaps some of you might add stuff like...

I'm a spokesman for Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia...

I used to be a lecturer in a theological college...

and before that, I was a vet.

Certainly, I am, or I have been, all of those things at different times.

And the jobs or careers that I have had...

or that I still have...

have all had an impact on who I am.

But no!

I'm not defined by the careers that I have had...

nor by the job that I perform.

And that's been a problem in our society...

especially for men, historically...

which has made unemployment and retirement so hard to deal with.

I'm not defined by my career or my job.

That's not who I am.

 

Well, you might add that I'm a man in my early fifties...

about one hundred and seventy-five centimetres tall--

or about five foot nine on the old scale-- 

greying and getting a bit thinner on top...

short-sighted...

crooked teeth...

slim and fit.

But also someone who takes some care with his appearance...

and who is pretty particular about ensuring that his clothes match...

and are colour coordinated.

And that's all true.

But no!

I'm not defined by my appearance.

That's not who I am.

 

Those who know me a little could add that I'm someone who enjoys: 

swimming, freediving, and underwater photography...

visiting tropical islands...

cooking and entertaining... 

red wines from McLaren Vale...

and watching science-fiction films.

Again, that's all true.

But no!

I'm not defined by what I do.

That's not who I am.

 

You could add that, although I spent a decade in Melbourne... 

I grew up in Adelaide...

that I'm the product of a good private school...

and I spent many years studying at university.

But I'm also someone who had a difficult childhood...

largely the result of my parents' fighting and subsequent divorce.

And, partly as a result of that... 

I'm someone who's had a bit of a rocky personal life as an adult.

And certainly, my past experiences have all had an impact on who I am--

they have shaped the person that I am;

they have influenced my expectations of life and the way that I look at the world.

But, no!

I'm not defined by my past experiences.

That's not who I am.

 

If you were to ask other people who I am, they might say...

that I'm Colin's son...

or Mark's brother...

or Sean's uncle...

or Natasha's husband...

or Libby's ex.

Or they might say that I'm a friend from the freediving community...

or someone they studied with at school or uni.

Certainly, the relationships that I have--

and the relationships that I have had--

have all had an impact on who I am.

They have shaped the person that I am...

sometimes positively...

sometimes negatively.

All of the relationships that I have had have taught me things...

about what it means to love and to care...

about loyalty and support and encouragement.

At times, they have brought out the best in me.

And, at other times... 

I have discovered that I don't like the person I am when I'm with that other person.

But, no!

I'm not defined by my relationships.

That's not who I am.

 

You might also say that I'm shy...

that I come across as intelligent, thoughtful, and scholarly.

Perhaps... 

that at times I'm too serious...

I'm a worrier...

or that I have an odd sense of humour.

You might say that I'm a caring person...

sensitive...

quite careful about the language that I use.

But you might just as well say that I'm quite stubborn and opinionated.

And, yes, you would be right--

I would certainly recognise all those things in myself.

But, no! 

I'm not defined by how I come across to others.

I'm not defined by my public persona.

That's not who I am.

 

I'm not defined by my career...

by my appearance...

by my past experiences...

by my relationships...

by my public persona...

or by the things that I do.

Nor am I defined by all of those things together.

Who I am is more than the sum of all those parts.

Those things do not define who I really am...

deep down...

in my heart of hearts...

when I'm alone with myself in my unguarded moments.

Because none of them adequately describe the inner-me:

my hopes and fears...

my dreams and disappointments...

my yearnings and desires...

my struggles, stresses, and self-doubts...

my ghosts and demons...

my observations and perceptions...

my beliefs...

and the secret thoughts that I share with no one else...

let alone the things that even I am not aware of.

And it's all of those things...

and even more...

that make me a unique individual...

and define who I am.

 

"Jesus said to them, ''But who do you say that I am?'" 

In the world of the first century...

a person's identity was defined by externals.

Who you were was determined by how you looked...

by the family and lineage into which you were born--

and hence the relationships that you had...

as well as your family's occupation--

and by the place where you were born.

These things defined who you were.

And, from the portrait that's painted in Matthew's Gospel...

Jesus was born under somewhat suspicious circumstances...

to an insignificant peasant family...

spent his first few years as a refugee in another land...

before growing up in a small, insignificant village in Hicksville.

To those who knew him best, he was the son of a carpenter--

in other words, read: "poor, white trash"...

and he was the 'son of Mary'--

in other words, read: "a person with questionable parentage". 

In the first century world, that's who he was.

And that's all he was.

Period.

But here, in this story, in Simon Peter's momentary flash of insight--

in Simon Peter's declaration that Jesus was other than how he ought to have been seen...

and known...

and defined--

the author begins to undermine and overturn all of that.

He subverts the ways in which his society and culture defined people.

And he continues that subversion in Jesus' response to Simon Peter--

when Jesus declares that Peter is a "rock".

Because, let's face it, Peter comes across as anything but a stable and reliable character--

like a rock.

In effect, what the author is saying here is...

that, in God's eyes...

we are never defined by our society's expectations or assumptions;

we are never defined by who others think that we are;

we are not even defined by who we think we are.

Rather, God is able to see beyond...

and through...

and past all of that.

God is able to see beyond our appearance...

beyond our past experience...

beyond the things that we do...

beyond the way that we appear to others...

and God is able to see us for who we really are...

and, perhaps even more importantly... 

for whom we may yet become.

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