But We Do See Jesus…
Today is World Communion Sunday. While many Christian traditions celebrate the Lord's Supper each Sunday, some, like ours, celebrate less frequently. But in Protestant churches around the world, communion is being shared today in the recognition that Jesus is Lord of ALL the earth, whether you are in the US, or in Liberia, or Jamaica or Germany or Korea or Australia or Guatemala, and that because Jesus is Lord of all the earth, then we, as his disciples, are joined to one another as one people, the body of Christ, no matter where we are. I love this day!
But sometimes it's a little hard to get a hold of the One who is Lord of all. That's a picture of a God who's very big and sometimes far away. We look at the world around us and it's hard to see signs that God is in control In fact, it's sometimes hard to see signs that God is here at all. Awful stuff just keeps on happening. This week, Russia increased its bombing in Syria, refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan and Iraq continue to flow into Europe, and there was another of those horrific mass shootings in Rosedale, Oregon, shootings that as awful as they are, now elicit the response , "Not again!" And not only our churches but others as well struggle along, wondering how to survive, and in our own circles of friends and family, death is a constant specter.
We know God was real and active in the lives of our ancestors. You may even remember times when God was real and active in your own life. But what about now? Where is Jesus now?
Some of you have heard this next story before, but stick with me. In 2000-2001 in Delaware County, there was a guy walking around dressed like Jesus. Long hair, beard, white robe tied with a simple rope belt, sandals. He presented himself as Jesus. He didn't tell anyone his real name. He was simply there, he said, to share the gospel. He wasn't crazy, as you might first think, or at least not crazy in any way that came with a diagnosis. He was simply trying to remind people who Jesus was.
On the Friday before my ordination, I was driving home from walking my dog at the local state park, when I saw Jesus walking past a park not far from my house. I did a double take and almost turned the car back so I could talk with him, but I shook my head and laughed at myself and kept on driving. But still, there was something there. And while I knew a little about who this was - I had seen the news stories - it meant something to me that I had seen Jesus, in whatever form. When I got home, I let the dog in the house and went down our long driveway to bring up the trashcan. And there, passing our driveway just as I got there, was Jesus again. I said, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but I'm getting ordained on Sunday and I think I need to talk to you. Do you want to come up to my house and rest a minute?" He turned me down gently, saying he had learned it wasn't always safe to do that. "Please," I said. "It's really important." So he relented and came up to the house, and there on my back porch two days before my ordination, I sat and talked with Jesus. Turns out this particular Jesus was a pretty conservative Catholic, and not a big fan of women's ordination ,but he broke the news gently, and set off on his way again.
I knew that man wasn't Jesus, but somehow, on that day, and on many other days, I need a sure vision of God who I can see and hear and touch to make God real to me.
The congregation to which the author of Hebrews was writing was wresting with similar issues with almost nineteen hundred years ago. They were people who were discouraged, tired of waiting for the full glory of Christ's kingdom, wondering why being a Christian was so important. They had hoped to see the full glory of God in Christ and the establishment of his kingdom where there would be no more tears in their lifetimes. Instead, the world seemed to be going from bad to worse, the struggle of life seemed to be going to continue for a long time, and they were beginning to lose track of their goal. What's more, they were having a hard time seeing Jesus. Tom Long says, "Tired of walking the walk, many of them are considering taking a walk, leaving the community and falling away from the faith." Sound familiar?
To inspire them, encourage them and give them hope, the writer of Hebrews reminds them of who Jesus is - not just the guy in a bathrobe who walked around in Galilee a long time ago, but Jesus, in whom God spoke God's definitive word for humankind. Frederick Buechner wrote, ""God never seems to weary of trying to get himself across. Word after word he tries in search of the right word. When the Creation itself doesn't seem to say it right - sun, moon, stars, all of it - he tries flesh and blood.
He tried saying it in Noah, but Noah was a drinking man…He tried saying it in Moses, but Moses himself was trying too hard; tried David, but David was to pretty for his own good. and hell-fire preaching, and you get the feeling that John might almost have worked except that he lacked something small but crucial like a sense of the ridiculous or a balanced diet.
So he tried once more. Jesus as the mot juste - the perfect word - of God."[i]
Jesus, the perfect word of God, is both high and lifted up and right here in the midst of the suffering with us. He is God's glory and human everyday life. He is God with us and God for us. By his living, he shows us the way, and by his death and resurrection, he gives hope not only to us, but, as we remember on this World Communion, to all of humankind. This is the word of God we see and know. Susan Andrews said, , "I am more and more convinced that the uniqueness of the Christian life is the radical way we are called to embrace paradox - grace and truth, life and death, darkness and light, duty and delight. Jesus is the one who shows us how. In the rich verses of Hebrews we are given a Jesus who embodies glory and humiliation, power and suffering, authority and servanthood, radical grace and radical obedience. Each side of the paradox makes the other side possible. In stunning symmetry, we find in Hebrews an utterly majestic and cosmic God coming to touch us - up close and personal."[ii]
We find not just God coming to touch us, but God coming to show us the way. Hebrews holds out for us Jesus the trailblazer who goes before us, who by his life shows us how to live. So on those days when it seems that evil will win, we remember that he faced evil too, and conquered it. When we wonder if anyone cares, we remember that he gave his life as God's great sacrifice for our sins. When our faith flags, he lifts us up and inspires us, running ahead and cheering us on as we too run our own race of faith.
So on this World Communion Sunday, as we gather at Christ's table may we encounter God's living and breathing word, Jesus Christ, Lord of all, who gives himself to us. May we be joined to that great community of saints who run the race of faith with us and cheer us on. And may we look ahead with hope to that day when the great race at last is run, and all the earth does show all things subjected to God's power of love. Until that day comes, may we see Jesus. Amen.