Exodus 1:8-2:10/ Romans 12:1-8/ Matthew 16:13-20
Who Am I?
Do you know who you are, whom God created you to be? When someone we know acts out of character, we might say, “Why are you doing this? It’s not you!” We say this because we know them. When I was 12 or 13, I loved looking at stars so much that I entertained the idea of studying astronomy. But even at that age, I knew that I couldn’t study astronomy because I was terrible at math. So, I decided to write poems about stars instead.
Searching for our identity can be a long journey. It might take a lot of years. It definitely needs God’s guidance and discernment. God knows us best since we were created by God.
Moses must have struggled a lot with his identity while growing up and as an adult. We read today the story of Moses as a baby. He was adopted by the princess of Egypt and would grow up as a prince of Egypt. However, he was not Egyptian. Eventually, he would have to decide who he is and which side he must take. But that is a story for later.
Today, we focus on the mother and sister of Moses whose wit saved the baby boy’s life. In fact, baby Moses was not only spared from a terrible death, but also got to be raised by his biological mother disguised as a nurse. We should also acknowledge the midwives who saved the lives of many Hebrew baby boys by lying to the Pharaoh. God blessed them for doing so. All this happened in the context of the Pharaoh enslaving the Hebrews (the descendants of Joseph and his family) and ordering baby Hebrew boys to be killed to suppress the number of the Hebrews.
In a crisis situation, one must decide who one is and which side one must take. For example, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, some Koreans risked their lives to fight for independence and some took Japan’s side for their selfish gain. Spoiler alert for the fate of Moses: his identity as one of the Hebrew people will prevail over his position as a prince of Egypt.
“Who Do You Say That I Am?”
In today’s gospel story, Jesus asked his disciples two questions about his identity: “Who do others say that I am” and “Who do you say that I am.” The answer that Jesus is expecting was not something that is on the surface, such as, “Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph” or “prophet and teacher.”
Seen with eyes of faith, Simon recognized that his teacher Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” For this insightful answer, Jesus gave him the name Peter, which mean ‘rock,’ and Jesus said, “and on this rock, I will build my church.” This is a play on words. Peter’s name in Greek is Petros, and petra is the Greek word meaning ‘rock’. So what Jesus said is, “You are petros, and on this petra, I will build my church.”
Who Are We?
We are a lot of things on the outside. We have names, occupations and titles, personalities that are known to others, talents, and so on. But what we think we are may or may not be what God intended for us. If my likes and talents were the only things to guide my life, I would have had a language job or a teaching job, which I have had before, by the way. But discerning my vocation took a lot of time, prayers, and guidance from the Holy Spirit. That is how I became a church minister, when this job was not in my top 50 list of what I wanted to become as a child. In the context of us being Christians and having been called to live as disciples, we need prayers and the Spirit’s guidance to figure out what God intended for us.
Members of the Body of Christ
In Romans chapter 12, Apostle Paul teaches Christians to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Now, how do we do that?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect,” according to verse 2.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned,” according to verse 3.
Then Paul gives the body analogy for our community of faith. As the human body has different body parts designed to play different functions, as the members of the body of Christ, we should play different functions according to the gifts we have received. As all body parts, small or big, major or minor, are all essential to the body, so are our roles in the body of Christ.
Journey of Self-Discovery
This week, and continually in the future, I encourage you to pray and reflect on what Paul put as “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Who am I? Who are you? Who are we in God’s kingdom, in the body of Christ? Which body part are we in the body of Christ?
In the knowledge that no body part is expendable, let us learn God’s plan for us in the Church and in the world as the disciples of Jesus. Even for me, being called as a minister was not the end of my story. My life and experience led me to the works of anti-racism, and after moving to Sicamous, I was finally able to fulfill my long-term vision of LGBTQIA+ ministry. No one knows what other ministry God will lead me to do in the future. You don’t know all your callings either.
Let us start our journey of self-discovery so that we can give ourselves to God’s ministry as a holy and living sacrifice. God created us beautifully and uniquely. Let us trust God to guide us to where we are intended, in our community of faith and in the world.