Sunday, November 17, 2013



Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah,* the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter,* and on this rock* I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was* the Messiah.*

Today’s reading from the gospel of Matthew is all about elephants.
That’s right---elephants.

Who do you say I am?
Jesus is asking his disciples. Asking us.

This is a bit like the old folk tale of the blind men and the elephant. 
The men cannot see the entire elephant. 
The entireness, the wholeness, of the elephant
is a complete and unseen mystery to them.

They reach out into the small world that is theirs
and they touch and they feel and they try to make sense.
All they each know is one part--
just the ear of the elephant, or the leg or the trunk. 
And each one believes they know.
Each one believes they know 
what an elephant is.

Who do you say I am?

We are too often like those blind men trying to define an elephant.
We grab hold of the part that is right in front of us--
the part that most interests us,
the part that is most familiar,
the part that mirrors where we are in our journey.
Maybe that part is liturgy or justice and outreach
or evangelism or Christian formation or stewardship.
All worthy parts. All important.
but not the whole elephant.

Who do you say I am?

Music! Youth! Valle Crucis! Kanuga! Lake Logan! 
Money! Preaching! Moral Monday! College ministry!
Small churches! Big churches! Emergent churches!

We grab hold of that one part 
and try to convince everyone around us that this is THE elephant. 
This is Jesus.
This is what matters the most.

Jesus loves me 
This I know,
Of course Jesus loves what I love the best!

Oh my.
You mean there is more than just this one part?
You mean you want me to look beyond this ear that I know so well?
To connect the dots between my part and your part
and his part and her part...
The whole elephant, huh?

Who do you say I am?

Jesus is the elephant in the room.
We know he’s here.
But sometimes we pretend he’s not.
Sometimes we pretend that we are the only one in the room.
Our needs, our desires, our loves.

Jesus is the difficult truth we don’t want to face.
Jesus is the truth we are afraid to speak to those in power.
Jesus is the truth we run from and hide.
Jesus is the one we try to bind up here on earth.
The truth is so big. So strong. Like an elephant. 

We look every which way and keep our blinders on 
for fear.
For fear
of the wholeness of Jesus,
of what he really knows, 
of what Jesus really knows about us,
(now there’s a scary thought)
of how Jesus might ask us to follow, to take risks, 
to speak up, to treat people differently.

To become real truth-tellers, 
gospel spreaders, 
church builders,
God lovers.
To let loose 
the wholeness of Jesus.

Who do you say I am?

You are the Messiah.
You are the Son of the Living God.
You are my all in all.
You are everything.

Who do you say I am?

You are the whole shebang, Jesus.
You are the entire elephant.

So big.
So mysterious.
So alive.

Right here. 
Right now.
Right in this very room. 

+           +        +

A meditation on Matthew 16: 13-20
offered at the Annual Convention of the Diocese of Western North Carolina 
Morning Prayer, Friday, November 15, 2013
The Rev. Jeanne Finan

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