Who Do You Say That I Am?

May this question trouble us, inspire us, and lead us to be curious about where the Spirit is leading us.

June 5, 2023 |

Image credit: Todd Godwin, member of St. John’s, Salisbury for the NC Synod

The ballroom was filled with hugs, laughter, smiles, and a palpable sense of the presence of the Holy. Lutheran folks gathered in Greensboro from all over the synod this weekend for the first on-site Assembly since 2019. Nearly every person who stepped up to a microphone expressed their gratitude for being together again in the same space. There is power in our physical presence that amplifies our experience of community. God believed in the power of the physical so much that Jesus came to live among us in a human body, allowing us to connect to God in a way that was impossible before. An embodied God, Jesus, calls us to an embodied faith. What does this mean? The theme for the Assembly, expressed in Bible study, devotion, and worship, encourages us to think about this question.

The focal passage for our time together on Friday was Matthew 16:13-24 wherein Jesus asks Simon Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus poses questions to the disciples that are clearly meant for us to answer today. The Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche, our Bible study leader and one of the pastors of Anam Cara, a digital-first mission start of the NC Synod, asserted “The son of the living God is what has brought us here together in this room…We are here to do holy work. ‘Who do you say that I am’ is a reminder that we are here together to do the work of Christ’s body.”

During the Bible study, Pastor Rasche asked us to turn that question inward as well. Distributing nametags with the familiar “Hey, I’m ____________,” she instructed us to think about how we would answer the question, “Who are you?” using one solitary identifier. We were then asked to turn to each other, read the tag, and discuss why we chose the word(s) we did. For some it was difficult to choose only one characteristic, for others it was easy. The range of answers on our tags was broad and reflected a room full of the wonderful diversity of God’s creation. Pastor Rasche used this exercise to illustrate that uniformity is not a prerequisite for unity. Rather, we are called to bring our unique perspectives to the work of the church. In our diversity, we can build a community that can work through our differences to make an impact. Pastor Rasche challenged, “‘Who do you say that I am?’ May that question trouble us, inspire us, and lead us to be curious about where the Spirit is leading us in our time together.”

The theme ran through the Friday evening worship of synod assembly as well. Worship designers, the Revs. Ward Misenheimer and Meghan Richter, and special guest musician, the Rev. John Tirro, invited congregants to use the focal question—“Who do you say that I am?”—as an invitation into deeper relationship with Jesus and with each other. In a service that weaved music that was new and refreshing with the familiar and comforting, we were equal parts challenged to bring the church into the new post-COVID era and warmed by the love of the community all around us. In his sermon, Bishop Tim Smith called us all to spend time contemplating what it means to confess that Jesus is the Son of the Living God in our personal and our corporate lives. If we answer the bishop’s call to contemplation, how will it change us?


Carol Schierlmann (Advent, Charlotte) for the NC Synod

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