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What do you want to be when you grow up?

I asked Emma that question not too long ago and she said, “a princess.” I followed up, What if you can’t be a princess? “A queen,” was her response.

My wife decided to ask our three-year-old granddaughter the same question. I thought it was a bit premature but… Avery also wants to be a princess. Carole pressed further. Do you want to be a lawyer like your Daddy? No. Do you want to be a teacher like grandma and Mommy? No. Do you want to be a pastor like grandpa? And Avery, knowing full well how to keep me completely under her control, answered her grandma but looked out of the corner of her eyes at me and said, “Uh huh.”

Dear faithful people of Saint Peter’s Church, Body of Christ here at the Intersection of 54th and Lexington; Dear Deeply Rooted, Always Growing People of God: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I know. At age 150, we think we’re all grown up; but our faith tells us otherwise. Our faith tells us that every time we assemble around
Jesus Christ present in Word and Sacrament, we are re-born; we are a new creation. At this very moment, this assembly is 150 years and simultaneously only thirty minutes old as well.

I know. Many of us “diverse individuals” are “of a certain age” and have begun to think and act as if our hopes and dreams for the future are silly and far behind us. But I’m not talking today about “diverse individuals,” I’m talking about who we’ve already heard from Saint Paul that we are: “the body of Christ and individually members of it” or, as we put it “a communion of diverse people and communities” regularly created anew at each mass as the Deeply Rooted, Always Growing Body of Christ in midtown Manhattan at 54th Street and and Lexington Avenue who are collectively known as Saint Peter’s Church. Of us, here, now in this place, God and the world are asking: What do you want to be when you grow up?

We don’t know if Mary or Joseph or Jesus’ sisters or brothers or rabbis ever asked him that question. We only have one story of Jesus’ growing up: Luke’s story of Jesus as a twelve year old bar mitzvah boy visiting Jerusalem’s Temple. The next thing Luke
tells us is that “Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his work” (Saint Luke 3:23). Today that thirty-year steps up to the Bema in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord… has anointed me
To bring good news to the poor,
Proclaim release to the captive,
Recovery of sight to the blind,
Let the oppressed go free

He rolls the scroll up. He leans on the Bema. He looks directly into everyone’s eyes and proclaims: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It’s absolutely electric.

That’s who the grownup Jesus intends to be: The Deliver; leading God’s people — whole and well and strong — back to God’s promised life lived joyfully in God’s promised land. The Deliver, healing and nourishing God’s deeply rooted, always growing people so that they can re-shape their world along the lines of the promises of God.

Anointed by the Spirit, leading God’s people, re-shaping life along the lines of God’s promise,
that’s who the thirty-year old Jesus intended to be. “Publicly nourished by God to creatively shape life in the city;” that’s who we intend to be — same source, same power, same mission, same Lord.

Citizens of Nazareth, then and now, had no such hope or aspirations. Their opinion of themselves, shrinking; their numbers diminishing; their children disenchanted; their institutions crumbling and their resources limited, they — according to Saint Luke — responded to Jesus predictably. First, “they were amazed and spoke well of him;” then they were “filled with rage;” finally “they drove {Jesus] out of town.” It’s hard to consider what you’ll be when you grow up” when all you can think about is dying. That’s exactly what’s happening to Christ’s Church today. From secular media and religious media; in broadcast, print, post, tweet and blog, from doomsayers in our midst and from those who are tired and worn, the same hopelessness, the same fears, the same anger wells up too.

It is tempting for us; it was clearly tempting for the disciples and it was probably tempting for Jesus, to be caught up in the malaise,
to “accept the inevitable;” and to ridicule or drive out anyone who would dream otherwise. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He “passes through the midst of them and goes on his way,” on to Capernaum, to healing, leading and freeing, so that, by the end of this chapter, Luke reports that Jesus “continued proclaiming his message in the synagogues, [not only in Galilee, but also] in Judea,” and on to be here with us today. Because that’s Jesus’ identity, that’s who Jesus wants to grow up to be, not in some ethereal, other-worldly way, but in the flesh and blood and Spirit that is in the bread and wine and that also is in you and me. Someday, when we and the church and the world grow up, that’s what we’re finally going to be and in this and every mass, we are in dialogue with Christ who is our future. Today, here that promise is fulfilled in our hearing and eating and drinking and being.

To bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captive, the recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free, in Luke’s shorthand, that is Jesus’ mission. But how will it be accomplished? What will Jesus be known for? How will Jesus’ mission come to be?
Several times along his journey toward the fullness of his glory, Jesus shared the way he would accomplish his mission; and to this day, that vision is what he is still known to be: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Identity sealed. Mission accomplished.

For fifteen years, “to creatively shape life in the city” has been our mission shorthand as the Body of Christ in here this place and, “leading in partnering” has been our vision for accomplishing that mission; has been how we have sought to be known for our work in this place. In fifteen years, there is not one thing we have done to accomplish our mission without a partner. Our latest partners are Sion, but Boston Properties, New York Cares, Momentum, Ziff Brothers, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Holy Family, Epiphany Episcopal, Central Synagogue and so many others who partner with us multiply our resources, increase our numbers, strengthen this institution and magnify our presence. In the Church, the city and the world we are known as the Body of Christ at the intersection
of 54th and Lexington who are “leading in partnering to creatively shape life” in the church and the city and the world.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Today as Christ feeds us, God joyfully names us: Body of Christ, here and, in Christ forever.

How are we going to be what God names us to be? What do we want to be known for in the next five or ten or fifteen years? Led by the Spirit, nourished by God in Christ, that’s what we’re about to try to find out — together.