Knowing Whose We Are

Knowing Whose We Are

Pastor Mitch Coggin May 7, 2023 Easter 5A

I invite you to consider that who we were in the past is not who we are now or who we might be in the future. And, where we were in the past or where we are now, and is not where we could be in the future.

We can only change ourselves. I am the only one who can change what I do, what I say, what I think, and how I act. You might be familiar with a form of the prayer attributed to Union Seminary Professor Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943. The prayer begins, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” God grant us the courage to begin to do that. God grant us the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we cannot; that’s when clarity emerges. We often believe that decision-making brings clarity, however, the process of discernment requires an openness of spirit and attitude that takes time. Discernment is an ever-increasing capacity to see the work of God in the midst of the human situation so that we can align ourselves with whatever God is already doing.

In the passage we read from John’s Gospel, the disciples are anxious. Jesus was about to leave the room forever and they could not conceptualize the future he kept talking about. He would no longer be physically present with them. Perhaps, they might be thinking, “Jesus, we are not feeling quite as courageous, brave, or as confident as you make us out to be. We are just not certain where all this is going.” Philip has a question about where they would soon be without Jesus’ physical presence. “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus knew his life was nearing an end. He tried to prepare the disciples and lay the foundation for the disciples’ relationship with God after he leaves them. Jesus challenged them to see that the words he spoke were the words of God the Father and that the work he did was God’s work through him. What Jesus was trying to convey is that where the disciples are now, is not where they will be later. After he is gone, they will be the ones to accomplish the works he had done.

In verse twelve Jesus clarifies, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.” Jesus clarifies that they have been in direct contact with the words and work of God through Jesus and so have we. When our words and works match there is integrity. When we act according to what we say we believe there is consistency. The works the church does in Jesus’ name are part of God’s work in the world.

Jesus reminds the disciples and us to remember that when our relationship with him is intact, it will be the force that sustains us.

Peter knew that our foundational relationship with God grounds us. He uses the metaphor of a foundation stone; the cornerstone that ties the building together and makes it secure. The founding stone of our faith grounds us when the storms come. The people Peter was speaking to were Gentile Christians who felt excluded from the foundations of the faith. Peter reminded them that who they were then is not who they are now because they are God’s beloved.

Peter referred to the story of Hosea when he wrote in the last verse, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Peter would have remembered that the prophet Hosea was asked to name his children unorthodox names. The children’s names meant “not my own” and “no mercy.” Could you imagine children on a playground being called “merciless” and “not my child’? Perhaps it was God’s object lesson for a generation who had forgotten who they belonged to when times were hard.

Hosea’s call is to remember whose we are. We are God’s own. We are secured by a faith that will not be swayed by circumstances around us. Nor do we need to give in to the troubles that threaten us from within. Who we were in the past is not who we are now, and where we are now is not where we might be later. Do we believe that?

If we believe that, how will we live?