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Who do you say that I am?

by Deacon Bob

It was a while back, but we heard the passage in Mark where Jesus asks the disciples “who do people say I am?” and then the follow-up – “who do you say I am?” When I am working on the 9 a.m. service power points, I have time to think about the gospel for the coming Sunday, this one reminded me of a scene from a movie with Billy Bob Thornton (I think) where the family is sitting around the table and Billy Bob’s character is going to say the grace before the meal. He starts out “Dear Little Baby Jesus” and his wife interrupts him and says you can’t pray to the Little Baby Jesus, you pray to Jesus. He replies, when you say the grace, you pray to the Jesus you want and I’ll pray to the Jesus I want.

That exchange made me ask myself the question – who do I say Jesus is? The list could include: Savior; Lord; God; Shepherd; Friend; or the baby in the manger? And as my mind routinely does I moved onto what is the image of Jesus that I see when I think of Jesus. Now if you Google Jesus under images, it is surprising the number of different images. Here are a few of the ones I found – one of my favorites is the Buddy Jesus.

Who is JesusSeeing the images, I am reminded that the Jesus of my youth was a very Nordic looking fellow, blue eyes and blond hair – not sure when it dawned on me that Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. As such “Buddy Jesus” is probably a closer depiction than any of the images presented to me as a kid, or even in the European Art I studied in college.

Some of you may have heard me say this before, but many years ago when attending a Heifer Project potluck in the Sacramento area, the guest speaker was James Tinkamanyire, a Ugandan farmer who told of what Heifer Project meant to his village and how through the gift of a cow, he was able to increase his income, build a two room house for his family and care for many of the village orphans. His dream was that with the added income the villagers could build a school for all the children. After the speeches, I had the chance to talk to James. That was a transforming moment for me along my faith journey, a journey that would lead to ordination. In our baptismal vows we talk of seeking and serving the Christ in others. Talking with James that fall afternoon, I had a sense of what it means to see the Christ in another.

So if you ask me who Jesus is, some days it might be Jesus as friend, or Good Shepherd or even Buddy Jesus. If you ask me what Jesus looks like – he is a five foot five, black Ugandan farmer in blue Jeans and Reeboks.


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