“Who Do You Say I Am? A Shift in Understanding,” by Martha Hinshaw Sheldon

Notes for the message at Durham Friends Meeting, April 23, 2023

Shifts in our understanding. 

Who do you say I am?  A question asked to elicit recognition and confirmation of Jesus.  A shift in understanding.  Who do you say you are?  Who do you say we are?

Christ, son of man, son of God, messiah, Adoniah, prince of peace, heretic, abba.

Quakers, seekers, religious society of friends, friends of Christ, seekers of the truth. 

Each defines how we respond to life and others, how we behave, how we live out our faith.

Musician Tommy Sands brought a group of kids together with other musicians to sing outside the building where the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was being hammered out the Thursday before the Friday.  The children present reminded the politicians and negotiators of that which is important.   There was a marked shift in talks after the children sang. 

“700 days of failure, one day of success.”  George Mitchell.  

Who do you say I am?

Commentator on the 25 year Good Friday Agreement anniversary said there was a significant shift in the negotiations when the participants shifted their focus from – What do you kill for?  To what do you live for?

I add the following.

What do you hate?   What do you love?

What do you criticize?  What do you support?

What do you take power from?  What do you give power to?

Find your truth, share your truth, live your truth. 

— From Humankind, by Rutger Bregman

*She was not alone.  Kitty Genoese.  1964.  Her neighbor had a friend call the police and then ran to be with her as she died.  There were 38 people in the area but only one real witness who saw and heard anything. 

The lord of the flies is not necessarily a real outcome. A real 15 month outcast shows different.  June 1965. A group of boys washed ashore a deserted island near Tonga.  They were out to see the world.  They created a working, cooperative system to successfully live on the island for 15 months.  

Images that fill our minds.  Identities of a nation, of a people.

Elizabeth Schrader. Called to study Mary.  To learn who she was.   She read original manuscripts. And worked for a PHD in Biblical studies.  She found that the village of   Magdala does not exist.  The one claimed to be the village is speculation.  Did not exist back In the time.  There were many towns named Magdala, the present day Magdala was not a village but a city as evidenced from digs being done now and was likely called Teracaya. Elizabeth came to the belief that Magdalene was a title.  Mandala means tower.  like the rock. Truth denied. 

Also in the Initial story Martha was not present.  It was just Mary. Martha added to dilute the focus on Mary.  Elizabeth found early scriptures that did not include both women.  And then found later scriptures with evidence of changing the participants of the story.  The reason to put Martha in and explain that Mary is from Magdala rather than Magdala being a title is to have power over the truth.  Sometimes one needs to come forward with new understandings to shift the truth.  To fully know the answer to Who do you say I am?  Who do you say we are?  Sometimes this shift comes through the voices of the young.   

What we focus on we give life to.  When willing to grow and learn more about a situation or person, faith expands.  To include more, The great I am.  The larger picture of those involved.  

Shift to embrace more. Shift to possibilities of understanding beyond where we are now.   

May we stand on the foundation of the rock and look to the light of the tower.   

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