Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hanging Around with Jesus

He left the meeting place and went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. He stood over her, told the fever to leave—and it left. Before they knew it, she was up getting dinner for them.

When the sun went down, everyone who had anyone sick with some ailment or other brought them to him. One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them. Demons left in droves, screaming, "Son of God! You're the Son of God!" But he shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much, knew him to be the Messiah.

He left the next day for open country. But the crowds went looking and, when they found him, clung to him so he couldn't go on. He told them, "Don't you realize that there are yet other villages where I have to tell the Message of God's kingdom, that this is the work God sent me to do?" Meanwhile he continued preaching in the meeting places of Galilee.(Luke 4: 38-44 - The Message)

There's something very interesting and incarnational going on in Luke's gospel. People want Jesus to hang around with them for awhile. It's true in Peter's Mother-In-Law's house. It's true on the shores of Lake Gennesaret in Chapter 5. It was true back there in the synagogue in Nazareth until Jesus told his hometown neighbors that they weren't the focus of his life anymore. Then they tried to throw him off of a cliff. 'Can't please everybody, especially if they knew you as a kid. Cleopas and his traveling companion on the other hand. They got to travel along and break bread with the Risen Christ and personally encounter God's realm in a special way.

Jesus' healing truly touched people. Jesus' prophetic teachings truly inspired people. Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection truly transformed people. People desired to remain in contact with him.

So, here's the question: Now that Jesus is gone and The Church is here -=- Why aren't people as excited? I mean I get the whole miracle thing - I imagine most mainline Christian Churches would have hundreds of more members if the pastors could pull off returning sight to a blind person and/or energize in and out of the nave every now Linkand then. I don't think that's the reason though. I'm confident that Jesus attracted followers despite his divine abilities. The evangelists such as St. Paul rarely if ever mention the fact that Jesus was a miracle-worker. They did declare that Jesus the Christ's presence radically changed lives.

That's the Gospel that doesn't seem to have as much traction as it did on the Road to Emmaus and in Peter's Mother-In-Law's house. We are struggling with encountering the Risen Christ, perhaps God generally. Emergent Church leader Tony Jones was recently wrestling with this type of question. He was defending his dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary when one of his examiners asked him: How is God revealed to human beings? Jones seemingly struggled with a response during the defense but subsequently, along with the help of Peter Rollins came up with this brilliant answer: “God is an event,” said Pete, “And liturgical practices are the ways that human beings organize their experience of the event they call ‘God.’”

Episcopalians should have the corner on God if liturgical practices and the Incarnation are the means by which human beings come into close contact with The Divine. I conceptually love the idea of God being more of a verb than a noun. However Jesus the Christ was someone who impacted people, personally, tactilely. We as The Church need to be capable of doing that through Christ's presence in the sacraments and in our ministries. We need to be reaching out to people and joining up with Christ out there in the real world. We similarly need to be hanging out more closely, and inviting Jesus more authentically and relevantly into our liturgies and Bible studies. We may not be able to raise people from the dead but we can surely share the story of Jesus who has risen from the grave to re-create our lives and redeem the world. We can break bread with one another in such ways that we invite Jesus right into our very midst, our very hearts. We can hope that healing will take place even as we consume the bread and wine that Jesus shared with his disciples in the Upper Room and Emmaus. We can believe, give consent to the truth that hanging with Jesus is still as possible today even as it was 2,000 years ago, even if we can't see him.

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