We hope that you are safe and well.
Today June 1 is the birthday of my brother Michael, who died forty years ago at age 36 of a brain tumor. Michael loved life and people, was a joy to be with. My Mom once lamented that he wasn't going to Church and I said, "Mom, Michael is a man right after God's own heart--he would give anyone the shirt off his own back."
Today is also the birthday of my cousin Rosemary. We were close as children and when I was leaving to study in Rome, she wished she could come with me. I teased her that I would find space in my suitcase and take her with me. We do take each other along with us and empower each other to be our best selves. Today's meditation asks us who we are and what do we dream of being in life and who do we bring with us for support: "Ungubani" by Phiwa Langeni.
We invite you to join us as we commit ourselves to working tirelessly to end systemic and structural racism in our society, in the church, in healthcare, in the workplace--wherever it shows up so that everyone may come to have more abundant life. May this meditation nourish our contemplative-active hearts and sustain all of us in action.
In the spirit of our philosophy of co-creating community and our awareness that the Spirit speaks through each of us, we invite you to share your meditations with us as well. We truly believe that it is God's economy of abundance: when we share our blessings, our thoughts, our feelings, we are all made richer.
We hope and pray that you find peace, healing, hope and the infusion of joy in your life!
With our love and care,
Ron and Jean
June 1, 2022
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” – Luke 9:20 (ESV)
If you watched the 2018 Marvel movie, Black Panther, you may recognize the Xhosa question, “Ungubani?” meaning “Who are you?”
During introductions in fictional Wakanda and real-life South Africa, people often ask each other who they are. Here in the U.S., people might respond to the question with their names, identities, professions, and whatnot. There, people respond with a litany of family names and relationships that situate them as one person connected to many. The response never stops at the individual.
When Jesus asks his closest friends the reverse question, “Who do you say that I am?” he’s already heard how the crowds misidentify him as John the Baptist or even Elijah. Much like ungubani wouldn’t be asked of people you already know well, Jesus’ question lands curiously in this context. He hasn’t had a bout of amnesia needing assistance remembering who he is. Nor is Peter a newcomer in this circle needing to be quizzed on who’s who among the closest friends of Jesus. So why ask the question?
Perhaps Jesus’ inquiry has less to do with his curiosity about who others think he is and more about helping us properly identify ourselves. Who Jesus is aids us in uncovering critical truths about who we are beyond our individual selves. Who Jesus is supports us in recognizing our inextricable interconnectivity, one created being to innumerable others. Who Jesus is (re)orients us in everything we do and all of who we are.
And so, I ask you, dear one: Ungubani?
When we’re tempted to stray from our truest identities, remind us of who we are so that we might never forget Whose we are. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.