Pastor’s ponderings

Many of us have heard this story, as it is contained in the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-16: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (NRSVUE)

Peter’s answer seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  His identification of Jesus was straightforward.  Yet, how often is ours as simple as his?  A couple of years ago I read a variation of this story that went a bit differently. There it said:

“And Jesus said to the theologians, ‘And who do you say that I am?’  They replied, ‘You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.’  And Jesus replied, ‘What?”

I’m certain that many of our responses are much like Jesus’s was in this scenario, aren’t they?  All too often in church we use big words, acronyms, and church lingo that many do not understand by those around us. We overcomplicate what should otherwise be simple and end up complicating the matter entirely.

This past week I was in a meeting and was asked to explain a theological concept as I would explain it to a group of 12-13 year olds.  It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, but suddenly I found myself explaining it in terms of learning to play pickleball.  If you have read some of my past ponderings, you may recall that I have occasionally done this, reflecting on my personal experience with the sport.  Yet, I never anticipated that I would do so in that setting, seated with a group of well-trained theologians, pastors with years of experience.

But, why not?  Why not use our experiences to be able to convey what we think about God?  After all that is what theology is – our thoughts about God, based on what we have personally encountered.  That’s what Peter did that day when Jesus asked him that question.  So, why shouldn’t we?  After all, ask a child their thoughts about Jesus or God and I’m sure they would give an answer we could easily understand.  As children of the Kingdom of God, shouldn’t we be able to do the same?

Everyone has thought about God at some point or another in their lives, and we have come to some decisions about God, about Jesus, about church.  Certainly, these thoughts may change over the course of our faith journey, as we have more experiences with Christ and his Body, but we still have reached some sort of simple conclusions to help explain what they mean to us.  So perhaps our challenge today is not to overcomplicate things; to keep it simple.  Perhaps our pondering today, especially in this Lenten season of self-reflection, should be, when someone asks you to explain – who do you say Jesus is?

Always pondering, Pastor Steve

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