Saturday, August 23, 2014


At one time bracelets with WWJD were all the rage. What would Jesus do?  Just last month Tyler Perry won the rights to use WWJD as a trademark. From our Lord’s mouth to trademark in less than 2000 years! And yet, what kind of hubris does it take to presume to know in any given situation just what Jesus would do. Zealous and patriotic American Christians might be surprised to know that the phrase they proudly wear on their wrists has its origins in Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? And that Sheldon’s theology was shaped by his commitment to Christian Socialism.

For my money WDYSTIA is more to the point. But it will never sell. It’s too long, and it is too close to WYBMADIITY. I’ll have to let you figure that one out. It used to hang on the wall at the Warwick Inn, Warwick, MA in the late 1970’s.

WDYSTIA – Who do you say that I am? There have been as many answers to this question as there are Christians. Even in the New Testament there is a broad range of answers: Jesus is John the Baptist, one of the prophets, Christ, Lord, King, Judge, Rabbi, Teacher, Prophet, Prince of Peace, Glutton, Drunkard, Lamb of God, the Slain Lamb… the list is nearly endless. It is the central question in the gospels, and within years of his life, death and resurrection the number of titles grew exponentially and continues to this day. Recent books have added names like Zealot, Revolutionary, and from no less than Bill O’Reilly, one sent to liberate his people from taxation – we might call him the original Tea Party organizer!

I have come to believe that the question as posed at Caesarea Philippi to the disciples (always a placeholder for the reader, for us) is meant to have us ponder who in fact we are. Who am I? Who are we? Are we the Body of Christ? Or not?

For on page 298 in the Book of Common Prayer it states that those who are baptized are incorporated into His Body. In Christian parlance it has come to mean something like we are his hands and feet and heart in the world – we are to be his continuing presence. I think it is this notion of our being His body, His ongoing presence which is how some early Christians understood Isaiah when the poet writes, “…my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.” Isaiah 51:6

My personal ah-ha moment on this central gospel question came from the mouth of a four or five year-old girl named Eleanor. It was my first baptism. Eleanor and her mother were being baptized on the same day. Afterwards, we were invited to Eleanor’s house for brunch where, like good Episcopalians, we enjoyed quiche and a glass of wine. While talking to another guest, I felt a tug on the back of my pants leg. I turned around and there was Eleanor.

“Can you still see the cross on my forehead?” she asked. You see since the earliest days of the church, those who were baptized have the sign of the cross traced on their foreheads – chrismation it is called. It is meant as a sign and a seal that you are Christ’s own forever. One can readily see the resonance with Isaiah in this anointing with oil, blessed by a bishop. Forever tends to be a very long time. We say this bond is indissoluble.

I looked at Eleanor who eagerly anticipated my answer. Eleanor who at age five when asked if all she said and all she did would proclaim the good news of God in Christ had answered in front of the entire congregation, “I will with God’s help.” And when asked if she would strive for justice and peace for all people, not some people, not a lot of people, but all people, and respect the dignity of every human being she replied, “I will with God’s help.”

I said, “Yes, Eleanor, I can still see the cross on your forehead.” Her face erupted in a joyful smile and she went skipping across the room as pleased as could be that we could still see the cross on her forehead. And I thought to myself, “That is the question for all of us. Do all the things I say and do proclaim the good news of God in Christ? Do I strive for justice and peace for all people? By the way I live my life can people see the cross on my forehead?” Then I went back to eating quiche and drinking wine.

During the week I attended to such important kingdom tasks as laying out the parish newsletter, taking it to the printer, and all the other minutia of parish life. The following Sunday I was vesting for the 9:00 AM service when there was a tug on the back of my alb. It was Eleanor. “Can you still see the cross on my forehead?” she asked. She had remembered all week! I said, “Yes, I can still see the cross on your forehead.” And then I got it. It was the ah-ha moment I had evidently been waiting for. The gospel that day said that those who want to follow me must pick up their cross and follow me.

After a lifetime in Sunday School and church, four years undergraduate studies in religion, three years of seminary, ordination exams, psychological exams, canonical exams and what-not I had totally misunderstood Jesus. I thought that the cross I was to carry were all those sad, difficult and lonely things that befall us. We say, “He has had to bear this cross for so many years.” Or, “She has had so many crosses to carry.”

It took a little girl named Eleanor to cut through all of that and help me to understand, this cross traced on our foreheads at baptism, and retraced with ashes on Ashe Wednesday, is the cross we are meant to carry. We are to live our lives in such a way that others can see it. It says I am yours and you are mine. It says we are the body of Christ in the world. It says that we do respect the dignity of every, not some, not many, but every human being. It says we know the answer to the question Who Do You Say That I Am.  And that we are that answer.

It begins in our being created imago Dei, in the image of God. It begins with a Bedouin named Abraham who sets out on a  journey from home with the promise of being a blessing to all people everywhere. It begins with Moses’ sister Miriam and the sisters breaking out the tambourines on the far side of the Red Sea and dancing and singing their way to freedom from the Empire. It begins with Isaiah proclaiming that God’s deliverance will never end. It begins with Jesus who asks us each and every day, “Who do you say that I am?”

We are called to be the answer to that question. Many times the church has failed to live up to that answer. More often than not the people of God have made the world a better place.

WDYSTIA? Answering this central question leads us to live lives so that people can see the cross on our foreheads.

Eleanor is all grown up now. She is married. And everyday people who know her still see the cross on her forehead. We are all better for her having asked the question, “Can you still see the cross on my forehead?”  Amen.

Can you see the cross / On my forehead
Sayin’ Jesus lives inside of me
Can you see the cross / On my forehead
There for all the world to see

To see how we are meant to love
To see how we are meant to live
To see how we are meant to share
To see how we are meant to give

That he is Lord of all that is
That he is mine and I am His
As I strive for justice, peace and dignity
I share in his every ministry

That I am God’s beloved child
That our God is well pleased with me
That we can laugh and dance and sing
Nothing can separate the love of Christ from me

Can you see the cross / On my forehead
Sayin’ Jesus lives inside of me
Can you see the cross / On my forehead
There for all the world to see

Copyright Sounds Divine
Kirk Alan Kubicek

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