Comments from Bp. Marc Andrus from Lambeth.
I AM - By Bishop Marc Handley Andrus
During the Lambeth Conference we are studying the Gospel of John in small groups. Particular attention is being paid to the “I Am” statements. Enormous attention has been paid to seven of these statements, each of which uses a metaphor to speak of Jesus, his ministry and his relationship to God and us. These are:
I am the vine
I am the living water
I am the gate
I am the bread of life
I am the good shepherd
I am the light of the world
A lifetime can be spent meditating on the I Am statements. The are each related to the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush, a story itself filled with holy mystery. And each metaphor is theologically mysterious, capable of infinite meaning. Finally, they can be thought of in relation to each other, having been woven into one gospel, and relating all to the ministry of the Son.
But here in this Lambeth Conference I am drawn to other I Am statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, lying outside and containing the metaphoric I Ams. In each of these less well known statements, Jesus puts no metaphor before you in order to help you understand him, but refers directly to himself.
One of these is in the conversation with the Samaratan woman at the well. Another is when Jesus meets his disciples in the midst of a storm on a lake at night, as he comes to them walking on water. At the end of John’s gospel, at night again, Jesus says to the ones who are inquiring where Jesus of Nazareth is in order to arrest him, “I Am he.”
The Lambeth Conference brings questions of identity forward in our lives. We are with people of many different ethnicities, cultures, and languages. In the presence of great diversity our easy assumptions of identity are unsettled, and deeper ways to ground our identity can emerge. We can begin to see our life in Christ as the ground of our being, our identity.
As we are drawn deeper and deeper into relationship with one another we find that the descriptors that may catch our attention at first, those associated with ethnicity and culture, rich and capable of being explored in depth as they are, do not begin to sum up human life. Gender, sexual orientation, economic status, all these are important too. And then we begin to learn the personal histories of people, certainly conditioned and connected to all the above, but articulated in unique ways having to do with the inner life of people, their gifts and aspirations.
At some point we may come to understand, as we perceive the deepest aspirations of another person, their courage and hopefulness in the face of their own life challenges, that we are seeing Christ in that person. Christ speaks I AM from within all life, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
What Jesus, when he speaks of himself without metaphoric mediation is about is affirming the goodness of creation and the apprehension of the depth of human beings within that creation. He reminds us that we are all “offspring of the divine,” and have the divine image planted within us.
The Lambeth Conference is reminding me of the life Baptism has drawn me into and prepares me for each day. I am trying to look for Christ in each person here.
A tip of the biretta to FranIAm for posting this!