Who do you say Jesus is? Do you believe he is a great teacher, as he is held in modern day Judaism? Do you believe he was one of the great prophets of ancient times as modern day Moslems do? Or, do you believe Jesus to be God incarnate, God in the flesh, the eternal Son of God, the creative eternal word of that Godhead we refer to as the Trinity.
How we define who Jesus is, is important. As prophet or great teacher, we relegate Jesus strictly to the human realm and he becomes a great and revered figure of history. When we declare Jesus to be the Incarnation of God, the eternal word, etc, then Jesus becomes greater than a historical figure frozen in time and place, but one who was and is and is to come. When we declare Jesus to be the Son of God, then our relationship with Jesus changes from that of a great figure of history, to one in whom we can trust and confide in to this day, as one in whom we can live and move and actually find our being. When we can declare Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed one of God then we are ready to declare Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Lord and Savior. . . I have to admit, as I wrote these three words, it felt a bit anachronistic. These words seem as if they would be better used in a Victorian novel than in a modern day homily. But yes, these are the words modern day Christians are often called to grapple with. As modern day Americans, I think it is safe to say it is not in our DNA to easily give authority over our lives to someone else. We cut ties with the British Empire because we wanted independence from the sovereignty of the King. And, if current political discourse is any indication of the American mindset, we do not like government telling us what to do.
However, when we declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior, as we do at Baptism, we literally give our lives over to Jesus.
But what does it mean to give our lives to Christ? Or, to put it in more familiar words, what does it mean to pray, “thy will be done?” According to Torah, when we choose to give our lives to God we are choosing blessing and life over death by closely adhering to the laws of Torah. According to our baptismal vows, giving our lives to Christ means being willing to enter a life of ongoing prayer, study, worship and fellowship; a life of choosing to resist and renounce evil, to strive for justice by respecting the dignity of every human being and by being willing to proclaim through our actions and words the Good News of God in Christ.
All of these actions are wonderful thoughts, but like Peter declaring Jesus the Messiah, declaring Jesus as our Lord and Savior goes even deeper than that.
Declaring Jesus as Lord and Savior, acknowledges that we are incomplete without God. That God, as our creator, has endowed us not just with gifts and talents but also acknowledging God has a dream for each of us.
What is God’s dream for you?
Most likely you do not know the answer to this question. That’s part of the challenge of following Jesus, God rarely sends us a map for the journey. Instead, like Dorothy who chooses to follow the Yellow Brick road, we have to trust the path that God calls us to follow will provide us with a life full of opportunities and challenges that encourage us to grow in faith along the way and will eventually lead us home to God.
Now for some. . .allowing God sovereignty over one’s life is easy. I think they usually are the type B double plusses. These are the people who some how seem totally at ease with life. . who never seem to have a care in the world, who seem to thrive with no structure, no plans and are just somehow able to embrace life no matter how it may come. These are the people who drive the type A double plus people like me crazy. Because type A ++ find journeying with God more like the ongoing wrestling match Jacob had with God at Peniel than a stroll in the park. Yes, we want to let God be the Lord of our lives, yes we want God’s will to be done, but only if we can control it and do it on our schedule.
As I look over my journey with God the past 30 years, I can see clearly where I tried to assert my will over God’s will for my life. Those are often the times I have felt most frustrated in my walk and found little if anything seemed to work out. At 21, I had my life planned out, graduate school, then ordination at 25. But God had other plans for me, yes there was graduate school but then there was time away from church ministry, time working in human services; an opportunity I now feel far better prepared me for the priesthood than my three years in seminary. Ten years ago, when it came time for Maureen and me to begin looking for a new call, once again we had our plan. Maureen was clear we would not move more than three hours away from our hometown just outside of Hartford, Connecticut. I was clear it would definitely be south of Boston. When we were finally ready to give up our demands and accept God’s will for us, we found our way here to Syracuse. . . .four and a half hours from home, and definitely not south of Boston. And for the last nine years with the exception of each January and February during Lake Effect snow, we have lived with. . and continue live with the assurance that this is where God desires us to be.
As a parent, it has been easier for me to see the hand of God in my children’s lives than in my own. It seems this another way God likes to frustrate us. Often times, others are able to see what we cannot. As with any parent, raising our two daughters has been filled with great joy and the enduring of many disappointments with them. But even in times of disappointment more often than not, I can see God’s hand leading. . . well, more like pushing them in the direction God desires for them. I cannot tell you how many times our children have made the right decisions for the wrong reasons, and later realized it was due to God putting the divine foot down and literally forcing them to accept what Maureen and I knew was best long before. God has a different and even better plan for them.
This morning as I share these thoughts with you, I am sure many can relate to what I have had to share. I am confident that Conal, Kimmie and Kim can share similar experiences of God. After all, if it were not for your willingness to listen and accept God’s dream for you as a family, you would never have become the family you are today. As the adults in Michael’s life the best gift you can give him is to teach him how to look for God’s dream in his life. After our time together Thursday evening, I suspect the task will not be an easy one. Michael is already demonstrating the full strength of his young will. And it will only get stronger as he gets older. However , through patience and by sharing how God brought all four of you together as a family he will learn to discern God’s lead and dream for his life. And eventually, he will find living into the dream God has for him will bring a life filled with the peace and love of God which as St. Paul tells us, is beyond all understanding.
My prayer today is that all of us affirm Christ as our Lord and Savior by giving over our lives to God and by seeking to live the dream God has for you.