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  • Writer's pictureChurch of the Incarnation

Who do you say that I am? Jesus and his Father

When you think about explaining who Jesus is to say a friend or a family member, how would you describe him? Okay, now if someone says, “I like this Jesus, but who is he in relationship to God?” How would you respond? If someone were to ask me these two questions, I would say that Jesus is a human being, just like us, and he is also God, the same as the Father and the Holy Spirit, except that he is not them, he is the Son. And if they said to me - as they likely would - what does this mean? I would respond that in the earthly life of Jesus we see God reveal his will: that all people might be reconciled to him.

The Father’s will, revealed through OT Scriptures (The Law, the psalms, and the Prophets), is perfected in Jesus’s life. And his life, as we know, involves sacrificing everything all the way to his execution, so that God’s perfect will might be accomplished. Indeed, not my will, Jesus says to his Father, but yours be done. Into your hand I commend my spirit we hear in our Psalm this morning, words that Jesus will utter on the Cross. Do not forsake them Lord, we hear Jesus say of his enemies who shout to crucify them who doubt, jeer, strive to arrest, challenge, persecute, and diminish his testimony of healing and love for all people. Do not hold their sins of blindness against them, Stephen cries out as he is being stoned. For these ones who are stumbling now, who have rejected the chief cornerstone, who have rejected God, do not know what they have done. Give them time and eyes to see you.

That’s it, my friends. It’s quite simple. The will of God revealed in Jesus’s life is to live in such a way that others might see it and be moved to open themselves up to receive God’s grace always on offer to them. It seems so simple. And yet, how hard is it to live sacrificially not for our own personal gain or good, but so that others might encounter God. It’s not really a social media influencer story is it? It doesn’t garner attention. It seems pretty damn pedestrian really; quite mundane unless it’s wedded to a story of glory or triumph as it often is with athletes who gain fame and fortune for their sacrifices, or poor families who gain capitalist wealth. Those are the big media stories. This is what sells in our world because it raises us up as controlling gods with the power to overcome our weakness, our smallness, our suffering and most of all, our mortality and the sense of insignificance this can bring us.

And yet this is precisely what Jesus did. Jesus, God himself, took on the weakness of human flesh. He was born in poverty and in the middle of violence. He died a very common death with a small group of followers. He spent his life having very little power and at every turn was challenged and rejected. He spent time with terrible people - sinners, enemies, outcasts, and frankly, he upended really important practices and ways of doing things that had been done for years. As thousands began to flock to this new way in the first few centuries, following this Jesus who revealed what God had showed and intended in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, what they came to see is that the power of God is made perfect not in or through our own perspectives or holding to the ways things have always been done, or by holding on to power or possessions, but through making the kinds of sacrifices Jesus made so that the sinners, the sick, the outcasts, the broken, the angry, the sad, the poor, the lonely, the frustrated, so that all these and more, might see power in its actual perfection: that God laid down his life in sacrifice so that we might be taken up in his resurrection to new life.

Pope Francis, speaking to a group of young Catholics made this so poignant: “On every page, the Gospel tells us that the Lord does not do great things with exceptional people, but with ordinary and weak people like ourselves. Those who count on their own abilities, and are anxious always to look good before others, keep God away from their hearts because they are only concerned about themselves. Jesus, by his questions and by his love, together with his Spirit, acts deep within us to make us real, authentic people. And today we have great need of such real and authentic people. Let me tell you something: do you know what the danger is today? Of being a fake person. Please, never be fake people, always be your real and truthful selves! “But, Father, I am ashamed because my real self is not good; you know, Father, I have certain things inside...” Look ahead, to the Lord, have courage! The Lord wants us the way we are, the way we are now, and he loves us the way we are. Take courage and move forwards! Do not be afraid of your poverty.”

Indeed, as the pope says, it is in Jesus’s poverty his death, that the power of God, in Jesus’s resurrection, took place. It is therefore in our poverty, as we do the will of the Father and give ourselves over to his will, that we are made into his temple, his Church, his body, the catalyst through which others might be drawn to God and transformed into Jesus’s own likeness. As I am in the Father, so the Father is in me, Jesus says, and so to his followers he concludes: so too then, as you are in me by my grace, so I am in you by my Spirit. Allow yourself to receive this by your faith so that I might form you into a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people “in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” AMEN

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