“I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, Outcast, Lonely, or Afraid.
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One,
Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Sees My Face.”
- Eden Bridge
Have you ever heard a rumor about yourself? Something someone said, and meant, but didn’t realize you’d hear about it?
Kind words can warm your heart a little more when they’re said behind your back by someone who liked you enough to tell someone else about it, whether or not they knew you’d ever know. Words like that are little shreds of gold we can tuck away to pull out from time to time to remind ourselves that people love us after all.
On the other hand, criticism can be extra sharp when it’s said behind your back, when you hear through the grapevine that someone dislikes you or misunderstands you or disrespects you enough to spread it around. Words like that are little shards of shrapnel that can cut for a long time after.
Jesus, undoubtedly knows the rumors about himself, the gold and the shrapnel, but wants to hear it from the disciples’ own lips. Have they picked up on who he really is, and will they say it?
He asks them. What are they saying about me?
Oh, there are rumors, sure, they tell him. Rumors that you’re a prophet or precursor to the Messiah. John the Baptist, maybe, back from the dead.
To be fair, Jesus was a little Elijahish. They hadn't seen Elijah come just yet - or at least they thought they hadn’t - and Jesus did seem to have an Elijah way about him. And to be fair, he was a little JohntheBaptistish. Both said, "Repent!" a lot, and were passionate enough to mean it. Both seemed to march to the beat of their own drummers and unapologetically. Jeremiah wasn’t a bad guess either - Jesus and Jeremiah had both spoken against the temple, alluded to Moses, promised restoration, were known for weeping at the state of things.
They weren’t bad guesses but the conversation doesn’t go on too long before it becomes apparent that Jesus had a deeper question in mind.
And you. You, my friends, who have eaten with me and slept beside me and laughed and cried with me and shared my memories....Who do you say that I am?
And I doubt anyone was at all surprised that Simon threw out the first guess. He was always waving his hand from the front row.
You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
That was a first, the first time one of his disciples had called him "Messiah" out loud. And for once, Peter gets an answer right. He had acknowledged Jesus’ true identity - Messiah. He'd affirmed what they all saw to be true as Jesus walked on water - Son of the Living God.
And in response, Jesus acknowledges Simon’s true identity.
And you're Peter!
It was more of a promise than a declaration at the moment. “Peter” is a word play on the the Greek word for “rock,” a nickname declaring who Peter was always meant to be - the Rock on whom Christ would build his Church. And even though sometimes he acted more like shifting sand, Jesus seemed confident that Peter would gradually become the kind of Rock a wise man could build a house on.
So throughout the Gospel, sometimes he's called Simon and sometimes Peter and sometimes the two are smushed together, Simon Peter. Because throughout his life, Peter would always be in process of moving away from his old name and into his new one.
And just like him, we are always learning to live into our new identities throughout this life, learning our new purposes, seeking to serve a new Master instead of the old ones who keep summoning us from a distance. Sometimes, we will look more like saints and sometimes more like sinners and often, a hybrid of the two. But as we become who we really are, then eventually, eventually everything else - the other names we were called, the rumors, the earworms, the shreds of gold and shards of shrapnel won’t matter as much as our true names do.
Today, as we go about our work and play, may we live more and more into our true names. Because when we can recognize who Jesus really is...the Messiah!...we’ll start to see ourselves as he does...the Church!...created for his purposes and for his glory.
“Be who God meant you to be,” said St. Catherine of Siena, “and you will set the world on fire.”
Pastor Brynn Harrington
Who has God meant you to be? What is he calling you to do or be that is most consistent with who you were created to be?
Gracious Messiah, you who see us for who we really are, help us to see you as you really are. Give us eyes to see the work you are doing in Your Church and help us to continually reflect your glory for all the world to see! Amen.
Society tells us many stories about how we “ought” to look and who we “ought” to be. Too often we buy these lies over God’s promise of Psalm 139, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Today take at least 3 full minutes and look at yourself in the mirror. I know this sounds (and can feel) awkward, but today, try and see your self, warts, moles, and all, as God sees you. As you see yourself and all its “imperfections,” rehearse God’s story to yourself: I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Pastor Aaron Engler
- Mt. 7:26-27
- St. Catherine of Siena, Letters.