Welcome to worship for this 18th Sunday after Pentecost, landing on October 1st, 2023!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. In it, you will find the order of worship, the words and responses to the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. As always the words that you need to know will be on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page below the actual video.
For a fuller online worship experience, you are invited to light a candle and keep it in your space, and extinguish it when the altar candles are extinguished after the sending hymn near the end of the service. And you are welcome to participate in communion as well by having something small to eat and drink for the appropriate time in the service. Further instruction will be given then.
May God’s abundant love and welcome shine in and through you, this day and always!
O Lord by the power of your Spirit may your Word give us life, give us understanding, and give us faith through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
“Who do you think you are?” Ever have someone ask you that before? If you have, it doesn’t feel very good, does it. But if you haven’t, what on earth, how??
As you might have gathered, I’ve been asked that a lot. Sometimes by colleagues, sometimes by family members, sometimes even by significant others, but probably the majority of the time I get asked who do I think I am is by complete strangers. Usually it happens when I’ve done something out of line, something that was completely inappropriate, maybe I’ve done something while driving that I probably shouldn’t have done.
It’s in these misdeeds that I rubbed someone the wrong way, angered them somehow, or just irritated them to point that they exclaim, “who do you think you are?” So sometimes, it’s warranted. Sometimes I need to stop and check myself. Sometimes they really want to know who I think I am that would give me the nerve to act in the way that has bothered them enough to be so annoyed with me. But there are other times, I’ve noticed, that this question is asked from a place that might not be exactly my fault.
In the past, I’ve been asked who I think I am when I did something that was perhaps unexpected, unconventional, or not conforming to what would be considered as the norm. So not exactly something wrong per se, but perhaps I was being a bit too innovative or something. And I’d get a “Who do you think you are?” Or maybe I was offering assistance to someone who didn’t want my help. “Who do you think you are?” Or there was even one time when I was still working at Shoppers and I was just doing my job unloading a delivery truck in the back alley, which unfortunately was blocking someone who was hoping to use the alley as a shortcut. “Who do you think you are?” I was asked out of exasperation.
So when we’re asked this, it sometimes comes from a place of privilege, where the person asking isn’t angry because of something wrong that you did, but you did something that didn’t go with their own expectations of how life should be, you did something that inconvenienced them in some way, or you did something that maybe took away or threatened their power and control.
“Who do you think you are” is just another way, then, to say “how dare you cross me?” or “don’t you know your place beneath me?” or “where do you get the nerve to disrespect me like this?” or even “by what authority do you do these things?”
Yes, the Pharisees and religious leaders we basically asking Jesus this very thing in today’s gospel story. See by most accounts this episode happens right after Jesus enters Jerusalem, makes his way to the temple, and overturns all the tables of the merchants and money changers trying to make an honest buck. And honest buck that is super dishonest by the way, but at least it was legal. So Jesus gave all these people making an honest dishonest buck a really bad day and of course that would get under the skin of those in charge.
So the Pharisees and religious leaders and those who stood to lose the most from Jesus’ unbridled but justified rampage through the marketplace, stepped up to Jesus to clap back in the only way they knew how to clap back, they pushed their weight on him and asked him who the H-E-double hockey sticks did he actually think he is to cause all this disruption, all this ruckus, all this inconvenience to their established and privileged way of life? Because they know what he’s about, they have his number. They’ve had people challenge their power before and all of them were put in their place because the Pharisees and religious leaders? They were doing God’s work. And they would smite anyone who would dare to say otherwise.
Well, Jesus said otherwise. And they didn’t like it. So they were ready to use their high education and above average intelligence to trap Jesus in admitting that he’s a quack and a fraud. “By what authority” is a loaded question because there should be no way to get out of this one unscathed. If he says by God’s authority, he’d be labelled a heretic because it was the Pharisees that interpreted for the people God’s intentions and they assigned to whom God’s authority lands and they sure as heck didn’t assign it to Jesus, this torn in their sides.
And if Jesus said from man’s authority, then he’d be labelled a liar. Because it was the Pharisees who had that kind of authority and they most certainly wouldn’t have authorised someone to be a thorn in their sides. So this was a lose/lose situation for Jesus.
But as we know, Jesus wasn’t having it. In one fell swoop, he turned the tables on the Pharisees just like how he turned the tables on those money changers in the temple. He trapped them in their own trap, brought to light the fallacy in their logic, showed them how their constructed powers and systems were only constructed by them to benefit them and those they choose to include. Basically, by asking them what seemed to be the same exact question, Jesus put them in their place, exposed their corruption, and revealed to all how equal and worthy of God’s grace we actually are, regardless of where we fall in the world’s hierarchy of made up power, regardless of what labels have been put on us by the people who think they know better, regardless of who the world considers us to be and what place the world considers us to be in, God raises us up as God’s own children, bestowing upon us all grace and love, showing us that we are worthy simply because we are declared by God to be, and we belong.
We belong in our churches, communities, and families. We belong in this world, as part of this human race, as people worthy of life that truly is life. We belong in God’s arms of blessing, welcome, and favour. We belong.
And just as we belong we can recognise the belonging of the other. This was the subtle difference in Jesus’ retort in answering the Pharisees’ question with a question. While they asked Jesus who he thinks he is, Jesus asks them not who they think they are, but who they think John the baptizer is, the one who is loved and revered by many, the one also considered a quack by the religious leaders, the one who baptized Jesus and physically anointed him to do his work. It’s like Jesus is saying, “You’re wondering where I get my authority from? Well, I get my authority from the same place that John got his authority from. Where do you think that is?”
See, Jesus’ authority wasn’t from any person, but it transcends human hierarchies and constructs. John’s authority wasn’t from any created systems, but it came from the eternal and everlasting Divine. And so our authority, our authority to proclaim, to relate, to participate in the changing of the world, comes from not our accomplishments, accolades, and acclamations, but from our Creator, the one who made the mountains and oceans, the heavens and earth, the name above all names to which every knee should bend and every tongue confess is the Lord of all in glory.
This Creator made us equal. Made us worthy. Made us deserving of love, respect, and welcome into community. But it’s in our greed and privilege that distorts this image and ideal, and gives us unwarranted and fabricated power and authority to mistreat others without justice or compassion, to view others as less than us, to strip away from others their dignity and humanity. It’s this misunderstanding of who we are that allows us to think that we have the right to ask others who they think they are. It’s this sin, that is, separation from God and God’s ways of truth and righteousness, that leads us to believe that we are somehow better, more deserving, and more loved than our neighbour.
My friends, today is Truth and Reconciliation Sunday, a day that we remember some of the atrocities of the past so we might move forward into the future. There were crimes against humanity, an imbalance of power and privilege, and this desire to put the other in their place. And the point of remembering these things as painful as it might be to do so, is so we can acknowledge the human capacity for wrong, for greed, for sin. And in that sin we can truly see how we are equal not in that we must be evil, but in that even in our capacity for evil we are equally forgiven, redeemed, and shown a gracious love that brings us all together as one race, one community, one body of Christ in the world.
So on this Truth and Reconciliation Sunday, may we recognise and acknowledge our capacity for sin, that when we think of who we are or who the other is, the answer will always be: a beloved child of God, and that every child matters. Thanks be to God. Amen.