Sunday Preaching: Who are you then? (MCCQC’s 9th Anniversary)

Mark 8:27-32 (NIV)

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

MCC Quezon City's 9th Anniversary Worship Service MCC Quezon City's 9th Anniversary Worship Service

Over the past 3 years, upon turning this community around, it has been our ongoing conversation and discovery the many faces of God and the face of Jesus. In one of our retreats we have been asked to make masks to showcase how we actually see Christ in our life or in our own face. It has been the continuous conversation and discovery in this Church that God is not just male or represented exclusively as male, but also as female, both, neither and something more. Who do we say Jesus is? It has been a question we have continually asked and continually answered the past years and I’m sure we will continue to ask moving forward. Let us pray.

Who do people say that I am? Jesus asks of his followers. In the gospel we are told some of his followers said, you are “John the Baptist” resurrected from the dead. You are Elijah, who has come back from his vacation from paradise. You are one of the prophets. And then someone said you are the Messiah. You, who is Jesus for you? How do you see, imagine or know Jesus?

12019942_683422628425393_9093875344211506486_nNotice, that Jesus did not say to the others, you are all wrong and Peter is the one who answered correctly. After Peter said you are the Messiah, he said “Do not tell anyone”. It seems, at least to me, That Jesus did not deny or reject what the others “say about him”… He is Elijah, He is John the Baptist, he is one of the prophets and he is the Messiah. Well, at least in the literary sense, the writer of the gospel of Mark really intended to insist that Jesus is the Messiah because he opens the Gospel by saying, this is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and certainly we who identify as Christians do believe that indeed Jesus is the Savior. However, Jesus can be so many things. Jesus can have so many meanings to so many people. Jesus is who you say Jesus is, is also equally true, and that is why Jesus is Queer. Jesus, at least in this part of the gospel did not reject the other “notions” about him by his followers. We grew up thinking Jesus is simply ONE Thing, One meaning and One person but Jesus is so much more. In the same manner that you are so much more, you are not just Gay or Lesbian. You are a mother, a sister, you are friend, you have so many meanings and so many identities to the people around you. Ever wondered why there are so many “versions” of Christianity? The more pivotal thing here is that whoever Jesus is for you whether prophet, Messiah, Son of God, or God the Son, the Word, Lord and Savior, Friend, and etc… the more important part is the response of Jesus in which he said, the Son of Humanity must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed. Jesus, subverts the idea of his first followers, that whether he is a prophet, Elijah or the Messiah, it is certainly not the kind of greatness they are thinking or we are thinking. It is not the kind of greatness where he sits on a throne and his followers will sit on his right and sit on his left like the stewards of Gondor in Lord of the Rings. He is telling us as he told them that the one you follow certainly has a journey that leads to rejection, humiliation, pain and death. Are you willing to follow that road?

MCC Quezon City's 9th Anniversary Worship ServiceBecause another point is that when we respond to Jesus who he is to us, it is also a rhetorical question, who are we to him, we who follow him? It is worthy to ask ourselves as a follower, who are we to Jesus? Jesus asking who do you say I am is a double edged question. Asking who he is, is also asking who we are in reference to who we think he is. How are we responding? In giving identity to Jesus in our individual lives as well as a community and Church, we are being asked, what is our identity and role as his follower? Who are you as a Church? This assembly in this yellow room is certainly not the The ROMAN Catholic Church. We are not the Methodist Church. We are not Victory Church or CCF or “The Feast”, or El Shaddai, or any of the Mega Churches we came from and we experienced. We are MCC. But I am pastorally careful, that in being MCC, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals are welcome here. For them to feel a certain level of familiarity and comfort in this yellow room, finding a few elements or signs of what it means to be a Christian Church together with this wonderful fabulous people. But we must insist that this is not the Catholic Church painted in rainbow colors (while that may also be a good thing for the Catholic Church, but we are not the Catholic Church. MCC is not UMC, is not the Baptist Church. This is MCC specifically the one in QC. And Going back to the question who are we as followers of Christ through MCC?

Am I a friend? Perhaps an observer? A club member wanting to belong to the clan- group or hip social club of JC? The PR consultant of Jesus? A client or customer of Jesus, that when I need something I just go to church as if going to the convenient store and getting what I want? Okay, I am who you say I am but you who say that you follow me… who are you? Why are you here? Why are we celebrating Jesus in our context of MCCQC Anniversary?

Birthdays and anniversaries have a certain melancholy to it. Some of us tend to do introspection when our birthdays comes. Upon reaching another year of life, we ask ourselves, what have I done with my life? Where I am I going? What else can I do?

9 years of MCCQC has passed, and 3 years has passed from it’s rising from the ashes like the phoenix. We also have pitched our yellow tent of a safe sanctuary along Aurora Blvd. Today, much of the affirmation and celebration of our existence as a safe community of faith, we are asked more than ever both as individuals and as church- community, who is Jesus to us, and who are we as Jesus’ followers? We are told that the individual and the communal journey is not an easy road, often times it is fraught with rejection by the powers-that-be. Who knows rejection more than us, the LGBT who have been rejected by the elders, scribes and priests of the churches we came from? Who knows what death is, more than we whose community have been familiar to so many murders of many of our brethren, especially our transgender sisters like Jennifer Laude?

In our 9 years of existence, to be faithful to the journey is to continuously locate ourselves in that journey by intentionally and continuously asking who is Jesus and who we are, again and again and again and through it, locating ourselves in the faith and justice journey of Jesus who walks even today. To be faithful in the past 9 years and beyond is to always ask the hardest questions to ourselves and to others, to repeatedly tell the queer stories of our lives, to painstakingly live in, with and for community (Oh how bloody is it is to live in a community), to welcome much doubt and uncertainty as much as we foster faith, and to always be in conversation (sometimes arguments) with each other and the rest of the world. And Sometimes the hardest part is to ask if what we are, what we do and more importantly, the why… is still relevant, is still effective and if it LEADS to building-up an inclusive and liberating community that also liberate others or are driving people away. All this we must faithfully, honestly and courageously do in spite of probable rejection and even death. And that my friends, hard as it may sound, difficult the questions and its consequences may be, is something that we celebrate today as MCCQC, for being a prophetic and liberating community that tries to live up and live-out our prophetic following of Jesus. Because when the hardest questions stops, then I can assure you, we are no longer the community of followers we are and we ought to be.

Yes it is not an easy road. The question must repeatedly be asked and repeatedly answered by prayer, word and action. Our questioning and our answers must be clear in building up circles of safety and love. Our questioning and our answers must lead to a cross of humility, Community and ministry of justice. We have to keep walking the dust road, trusting that the Jesus whom we call as Elijah, Prophet, Messiah or Son of God, or God the Son, walks ahead of us. Having passed from suffering and death, he has risen into new life, and he waits for us in Galilee holding and waving a rainbow flag.

Preaching by Joseph Tiu-San Jose

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