Friday, November 22, 2013

I am what I am

1Corithians 15:1  Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2  through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you--unless you have come to believe in vain. 3  For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them--though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11  Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
"I am what I am" is a song originally introduced in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles (1983–1987). The song was then released by Gloria Gaynor and has taken on a life of its own beyond the musical. It has become an anthem of self-assertion against the abuse and derision that is experienced by gay people.[1]

However, these words are much older than this. They are found in the writings of St Paul (1 Cor 15:10). But they are not original to Paul, because they originate in Exodus 3:14 where Moses asks for insight into the character of God: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”  

When Paul uses this phrase he is not offering a defiant assertion of his identity, but is rather asserting the new identity that he finds in Christ. He has been welcomed by Jesus, even though his persecution of Christians made him “unfit to be called an apostle”.  This then is the good news of our faith: we are not condemned to be trapped by our past – we can become more: “I AM”, The God of all Creation, will take up residence in our lives and transform us. We can become a visible expression of “I AM” in our own living.  When a Jesus-follower says “I am what I am” we speak of the way God is at work in us transforming us to become what God has dreamed we can become.

I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation

It's my world
That I want to have a little pride
My world
And it's not a place I have to hide in

Life's not worth a dam till I can say
I am what I am

Songwriters: OWEN,MARK
Published by Lyrics © EMI Musi

Last Sunday after Pentecost
56 Christ the King
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 341.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

[1]  It eventually became one of two Gaynor songs to serve as rallying cries for the gay pride movement (the other being 1978's "I Will Survive").

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