Who do you say that I am?
The 16th Sunday after Pentecost
Year B - Proper 19
In the old days, when anybody asked what a particular thing "meant to me" the hairs on my neck would rise up. I sometimes felt manhandled back in college by people who insisted that I examine the subjective experience of things rather than their objective status or existence.
Surely what things "meant to me" was less important than what they actually were. No?
Well, perhaps not. It's taken thirty years of arguing or seeing people argue about the obvious things in front of them to admit that, no, the universe is not full of rocky little atoms wanting somebody clever to correctly identify them.
The subjective experience of anything is important. Pablo Neruda can indeed write a poem entitled "Ode to My Suit" and find, in his threadbare daily garment, a universe of meaning which would pass over the head of his tailor or his dry-cleaner.
In the reading at hand, from Mark's Gospel, Jesus is concerned to ask what his disciples think of him – who they believe him to be. A variety of opinions are being bruited about in the marketplace - that he was the reincarnation of some historic prophet or, perhaps, John the Baptist brought back from the dead. No, says Jesus, sod the competing opinions, I want to know who you say that I am.
This would appear to be something more than a mid-term exam. Nor is he asking how the disciples are feeling.
We are prompted, like them, to declare what we know and believe. Ignorance and the darkness are, too often, safe and comfortable states and places in which to hide. If there is any connection at all between faith and "saving knowledge", it is that such knowledge involves allegiance. We step forward and reach out to the person known or believed in.
Jesus being God's Messiah means something to me. We do not merely acknowledge that as a fact, but must follow that knowledge and wed ourselves to it - even if the path that knowledge leads us along includes a Cross -
Jesus' Cross or ours.