Letters Reflections

Letter to parishioners, 21 August 2020

Every week we read Jesus’ teaching and yet what difference does it make to us? … Who do we say that he is?

Friday, 21 August 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

In Sunday’s gospel reading we will hear of the moment when Jesus asked his disciples what the people were saying about him.  What did they make of this man who had been teaching a new way of living; who had been healing those deemed beyond hope; who had been working signs of power that defied the laws of science?  Jesus understood the human tendency to find a way of explaining the inexplicable, of creating a ‘reality’ that suited their own agenda.  Jesus would not have been surprised to hear that the people presumed him to be a reincarnation of one of the prophets of old, or even the more recently martyred John the Baptist.  Jesus understood how strangely the human mind works, and especially when linked to the self-serving force of gossip. 

Having been told what the people were saying, Jesus went on to ask the disciples who they thought he was.  Peter’s response was immediate and unequivocal: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!  In this encounter we are invited to consider what our response would be to Jesus’ question.  Would we seek to ‘make sense’ of Jesus in human terms, or would we be ready to testify to his real identity?

As we know, Jesus was perceived to be a threat because of his radical new teaching.  I often wonder what the average parish church would make of Jesus if he was in the congregation.  How would they cope with someone who uncompromisingly expected them to put others before themselves; who would expect them to empty their precious reserve accounts in order that others might not live in squalor and hunger; who would expect them to love their enemies?  I am certain that, even today, Jesus would be rejected as he was two thousand years ago.  Every week we read Jesus’ teaching and yet what difference does it make to us?  That is the message we should be taking from this Sunday’s reading from Matthew’s gospel – what difference does Jesus make to us?  Who do we say that he is?

This is all very challenging.  For some it will be too challenging, coming as it does on top of all the other uncertainties and confusions we are living through at the moment.  Surely this is one of those questions we can shelve until tomorrow – the tomorrow that never comes.  But … what if we made answering Jesus’ question a priority?  What would it mean for us to join Peter in acknowledging the divinity and the power of Jesus?  We would certainly come to know the peace that alludes us at the moment, just as we would come to learn the value of everyone we encounter day by day.  We would also be given a new purpose in life.  We would come to understand that we are called to share the light of Christ rather than the darkness of human greed and self-interest.  Actually, joining Peter in seeing Jesus as The Messiah, the Son of the living God, would change so much. 

I invite you to consider your own answer to Jesus’ question in the coming days.  Jesus asks: Who do you say that I am?  I hope and pray that you may be able to give the life-changing answer that will bring you into the fellowship of all who, through the ages, have found the path of peace and contentment, and who have made such a difference to the world in which we live.

With every blessing,

Revd Stephen