Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.
This year’s chapel theme is “Who Do You Say That I Am?,” which, as the title suggests, focuses on Jesus. The question of who Jesus is to you personally, or how he is manifested throughout other historical or cultural setting, is fascinating, and the sermons we have heard thus far have been wonderful. As a member of the worship committee, I have been able to ponder this question for several months and in that time have seen a different answer than I would have originally claimed. Who do I say that Jesus is? Jesus is the glue that holds my “family” together.
I put family in quotation marks because I am not talking about those who are related to me by blood. The family that I am referring to is the family that is made up of those who I have had the privilege of knowing through my involvement in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Presbyterians make a vow when an infant is baptized— a vow to love and teach the child the ways of Jesus not just in their words and actions but also through love and prayer. To me, by making this vow, you are vowing to be a family.
For much of my childhood, I saw my actual extended family about once a year. My grandparents were never able to come for Grandparents’ Day at school, and we lived far away from any cousins that were around my age. But I never felt like I was missing out on anything, because I saw people who loved me every Sunday morning, people who would come check me out of school when I was sick, bring mashed potatoes and magazines when I had my tonsils removed, and who made sure that I was keeping up with homework. What was even more exciting was going to Montreat, North Carolina, for youth conferences and seeing Presbyterians from all over the Southeast who I considered family.
It has not changed all that much, though I do see my actual family more than I used to. But despite these stronger connections with my extended family, the people that I call when everything is going badly are those people from Montreat or from Birmingham. Those are the people who tell me that they do not love me because of my GPA or because they think I am funny or because of who I am related to. They love me because Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Who do I say Jesus is? Jesus is the example of how to love, how to pray, how to teach and how to live. Jesus reminds me how interconnected we all are. Jesus is why I can say that my family reunion looks like the Clayton Center filled with 700 middle school students and their youth leaders or a week in Montreat with 1,500 high school students and their leaders. Jesus says that we are to love one another as we love ourselves, and if that command does not make a family, I cannot imagine what else could.