Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sir, I Just Wanna See Jesus...
People come to us all the time wanting to see Jesus. Some of them are regulars in the pew going through difficult times. Some of them are new to the faith and bubbling over with excitement. Some of them are cynics who won't believe anything they cannot feel or touch. Some of them are the strangers just darkening the church door and not sure what they will find.
And where is Jesus? Where do we point them? To heaven as we have taught the children? To the heart as the pietists and evangelicals have taught us? To the world (Mother Nature) as the green folks would have it? Where is this Jesus that Scripture talks about so much?
It should be instinctive to us. We point to the Word of Scripture, to the voice of absolution, to the water of baptism, to the bread of the Eucharist, to the cup of salvation in the Sacrament, and to the fellowship of those who gather around the means of grace. This is where Jesus is, where He has promised to be, where His Spirit reveals Him, where faith sees Him, and where all that He has accomplished for us is accessible to us.
Are we disappointed? Were we hoping for something more -- more dramatic, more mysterious, more profound, more other worldly???? Are we thrilled that God comes to us where He has placed His promise (Word and Sacrament) OR are we disappointed because we were hoping for something a little different?
Sadly, too many Christians today are disappointed in the means of grace and so their focus is somewhere else (on music with a beat or worship shaped by technology or preaching that fixes today without mentioning the eternal tomorrow or a church of how to's to teach everything from parenting to sex, financial prosperity to happiness... We have a Church which is increasingly in tune with the wants and needs and culture of the people around them but increasingly out of touch with the God who comes to us where He has attached His promise (Word, water, bread, wine...).
If we are disappointed, it is not because we have looked for Jesus in those places and He was not there... no, it is because we did not want the Jesus who placed Himself there and who gave us access to His grace through these ordinary means. If we are disappointed, it is not because the means of grace failed but because we failed to acknowledge them, to glory in their gifts, to rejoicing in what blessing they bestow, and to see with eyes of faith the Christ who is always hidden there (just as He has promised).
I would challenge us all to think long and hard about the challenges and opportunities facing the Christian Church today. Is it that we are failing to keep up with the folks outside the Church or is it that we are failing to capitalize on the sufficient grace that comes to us through the means that He has appointed (Word and Sacrament)? Are we confident that this is where Jesus is... or have given in to the false idea that Jesus is either up there or in here (heart) or out there (world)?
Ask a Christian where Jesus is and you will find out a great deal about the source of their confidence in the real presence... and maybe find out more than you want to know about the real absence of Jesus except for the passing thought, occasional warm feeling, and all too infrequent tingly moment... And that is why we are having problems reaching the folks outside with the Christ who is inside... we are either too disappointed in where Jesus has chosen to place Himself or too blind to see Him there and so the Jesus we have to offer to the world is a Jesus absent of history, present in thought or feeling, and mostly content to live outside of our lives instead of with us (the Emmanuel who keeps the meaning of this word by giving us the Word and Sacraments)...