One evening in Church History class the lecture began with this question: who are you? It was a good opening; it made me start, it made me pay attention. It was not the words I expected in that place at that time. And it was a great question with which to frame the discussion of the early Christian persecutions that followed. I did not at that time realize the ways in which that question would echo forward through my life. I certainly did not then nor do I now have as clear an answer as our Gospel reports that John the Baptist offered when asked the same question:
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.
I come from the generation that identified and became obsessed with the terms “identity crisis” and “midlife crisis”, both psychological terms for the kind of inquisitive searching started with the simple question “Who are you?” But John knew who he was…he was there to be the voice of the prophet from Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1, and Psalm 68:4.
If I were to go back to the beginning of this devotional process to state my theme for the writing of these days, I would change my theme to “living as disciples,” because that is where each text so far has taken me. Maybe it is in the text, maybe it is just in me; but again in our reading I hear a call to stop waiting and to acknowledge that I, like John, have life and breath because I am “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” It is the great answer to the question of a generation, “Who am I?”