“When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he spoke with authority, and not as their scribes.” – Matthew 7:28
The last time you received communion the pastor might have said something like, “The body and blood of Christ given for you” or something less graphic, more poetic, and just as appropriate such as: “The bread of life and the cup of hope.”
Augustine, the great African theologian of the early church, reportedly said something completely different. “Receive who you are,” he would say as people took the host and “Go and be who you are called to be” immediately afterwards, charging the faithful to live into their identity as God’s child.
If Augustine was criticized for these surprising and subversive blessings, it was not recorded. Maybe Augustine got away with it because he was a renowned bishop. Or maybe it floated because Augustine spoke from the authority of his own deep experience of Christ in himself just as Jesus spoke from his own experience of divinity.
That kind of authority is available to all of us whether or not you have an impressive title to back you up. You are not called to be Jesus but you are called to recognize Christ in yourself and humbly claim your authority to live from that awareness. It means living a life of integrity and being guided by fierce love, come what may.
Right now would be a good time. We are living in days that demand moral clarity, compassionate courage and subversive grace. So please, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of the world God loves, speak and live with the authority of Christ in you.
Christ, in receiving you, I receive who I am. Help me to be who I am called to be. Amen.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince, will be available March 9, 2018.