Sermon: Who Do You Think You Are?

Reflection by the Reverend Trevor Jamison for Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields, online service, July 5th 2020

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Who do you think you are?

Whenever you try to answer that question you quickly come to the question of who your parents and their parents are or were. That’s what lies behind the popularity of the television programme, Who Do You Think You Are, which traces the family tree of various celebrities.

Our reading from Genesis, about a servant given the tricky task of finding a wife for Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, was surely written, at least in part, to answer the question, ‘who do we Jews think we are.’ And the answer was, ‘we’re descendants of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob, who was the father of twelve sons, who were heads of the twelve tribes that constituted Israel and all its people’. That’s who we are.

Centuries later, and one of these Israelites, one these Jews, was Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus too had to answer that question: ‘wo do you think you are?’ Some who were asking him that question were hard to please. Jesus’s cousin, John the Baptist, who had a restricted diet and was teetotal, had a demon in him, they said. Jesus, who was happy to eat anything and to take a drink, they condemned as a glutton and drunkard who kept bad company. There’s no pleasing some people.

Still, that leaves us with a question. Who do we think Jesus is? After all, on our church website it says, ‘Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church aims to show the love of God … known to us through Jesus Christ.’ And you can’t do that if we don’t know who Jesus is.

So it’s good here, that in Matthew’s Gospel, we get to listen to Jesus answering that question for himself: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ (11:25-27)

That’s five uses of the word, ‘Father’, and two of the word, ‘Son’. Maybe, had he lived in our time, Jesus would have expressed this with different wording, but today, don’t let that distract you from the point that Jesus understands himself in terms of who and where he has come from i.e. from God. He is, as it says elsewhere in scripture, ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.’ (Colossians 1:15)

These verses speak of a closeness of relationship – Father/Son, parent /child, that says, if you want to know who Jesus is, look at God, and if you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

God, the Father, says Jesus, is lord of heaven and earth (11:25) i.e. God is the creator and sustainer of this universe.

God, says Jesus, particularly loves the weaker ones, revealing things to those deemed infants, that those deemed wise and intelligent can’t see. (11:25)

God, says Jesus, is a gracious God, giving to us out of divine love, not on the basis of human worthiness. (11:26)

God says Jesus, reveals God’s self to us in Jesus, by means of a relationship that is so close – in words and imagery of that time, Father/Son and Son/Father – that to see Jesus is to catch a glimpse of God on earth. (11:27)

So …

God is the creator and sustainer of all things … including you.

God cares for the weak and vulnerable … including, but not only, you.

God loves you … whether you deserve it or not.

God makes this known to us is and through Jesus Christ.

This is who we think Jesus is, and believing that makes us who we think we are.

And that is why we say, ‘Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church …. [exists] to show the love of God … known to us through Jesus Christ.’

May we show God’s love to others and tell them of how we have found it through Jesus Christ, today and tomorrow, and in the days ahead. Amen.

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