Sermon for Sunday February 16, 2020
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Who are you? On the surface this question seems simple. If I were to ask anyone of you here, I would get a simple response of I am (fill in the blank). Delving much deeper, we can again ask this question, who are you, as a stepping-stone to understanding the deeper individual each one us is. Who are we at home, who are we at work, with our friends, families, when we are alone. Knowing who we are is a very crucial part of growth and experience and we have spoken about the importance of exploring our own self’s, testing ourselves as St. Paul says, in order to see whether we are of righteousness or evil, of God or of the world.
But today as I ask who are you, I am not asking us to examine ourselves but rather, how many of us have asked God, who are you? Recently, a new series came out on Netflix, which a number of people recommended I watch, called Messiah. Without looking at the premise too deeply, one theme that kept repeating with the main character was people’s curiosity and questioning of, “who are you?” Movies and stories aside, I think it is very natural to ask God who he is. If Jesus was to appear in front of us and speak and do the extraordinary acts that he has done any one of us would ask, who are you. Whether it be today, tomorrow or even 2,000 years ago, people have asked God and more directly Jesus – who are you? So who is Jesus?
Sadly, many of us don’t ask this question sincerely or from a desire to increase our communion with God. The person of Jesus has been examined historically and theologically throughout the centuries, and perhaps a handful of us would be able to provide some sort of an answer as to who Jesus was. Over the last several weeks throughout the Gospel readings in John we see how Jesus is repeatedly laying out the framework for this question. Three weeks ago, we read the ever famous passage of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, He sent his only begotten Son…” Two weeks ago, we read of how the disciples were caught in a storm and Jesus, walking in the storm said, “It is I, do not fear.” And last week, we saw how the people who followed Jesus, were only doing so to fill their own appetites, their stomachs, rather than desiring to be fed by what is eternal.
Today’s reading begins with the words, “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”” John makes a point to mention that when Jesus spoke, it was the “last day of the feast, the great day” because it was the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:36, 42-43, II Maccabees 10:6). And on the last day of this feast, priests drew water from the pool of Siloam and brought it to the temple to be mixed with wine and the mixture was poured out at the foot of the altar for purification. My dears, St. John’s emphasis on the last day, or the great day shows that this is the climax, the conclusion of the Feast and when Jesus states that he quenches the thirsts of those who need water, Jesus is saying on this last day that, I am fulfillment of this feast, I am the Omega, the fulfillment of prophecy – the body, bread from heaven, the blood, the wine, both from Communion, and waters of our baptism, that together purify us and cleanse us of our sinfulness.
Jesus very plainly is laying out who he is, not as our physical eyes can see, but as who he is when we look with spiritual eyes after we have been illuminated. The difference between physical and spiritual eyes is that, as we read, even those who were with Jesus, even those who saw, who ate, who were healed, even those Pharisees who knew the laws and prophecies, they all continued argue and misunderstand who Christ Jesus is and asked “who are you”. Their blindness was not in the question they were asking, but rather, in the why they were asking. And this is what we find in St. John’s Gospel readings throughout the last few weeks and it is this that we must ask ourselves, especially as we begin to prepare for our Lenten journeys towards Pascha.
Why are we asking to know who Jesus is? Are we asking because we desire to learn the history of a 1st century Jew, born in Bethlehem? Or, are we asking to know because we desire the fullness of Communion through Christ Jesus with God the Father? We have all in some way, shape or form “seen” and have been “fed”, but when it comes to knowing who God is, do we understand why is it that we are trying to learn and understand? If we want to know who Jesus was back in the 1st century, there are plenty of National Geographic, and Church history textbooks which argue about who Jesus was.
But what we are being invited to do is know who Jesus Christ is yesterday, today and forever more: God, who took on flesh, becoming human. Who thirsted, who hungered, who willingly suffered as a human, just like we do.
But because he remained undivided from His divinity – meaning He is, was and will forever be God, through His death and resurrection, He raised us to life. And he did this in order to create a full communion with each one of us, with all humanity and all creation, not because he felt bad for us but because he, God, is love.
My dears, this is not something that is easily understood. Many theologians and priests can attest to that just by looking at Church history and how many times this topic has been argued. Who is Jesus? However, asking who God is, asking Jesus, who you are is not a sin, it is not devious, it is not destructive, if, we are asking with a genuine heart, for a thirst and hunger of being filled with the love of God. What God desires most, above all else, is not that we do not question, but rather we question from a place of desire to grow towards him, in oneness with Him, in Communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Therefore my dearly beloved, as we prepare next week to start our Lenten period of fasting, prayer, repentance, charity and mercy – I pray that we take time to examine our thirst and our hunger, in order for us to understand not who Jesus that man was, but who Jesus Christ is. Only then, will we be able to fully greet each other on Easter with the words of Christ revealed in us. And as Christ is revealed in us, He will then also be revealed through us to others who will ask, who are you, Amen!