Where do folks see Jesus? by Pastor Noel

March 18, 2018    5th Sunday in Lent, B

 

      In the beginning of John’s Gospel we learn, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

      John is telling us that Jesus was the personification of God’s activity, God’s behavior, and that Jesus was a real person. God in flesh and blood.

      That is what “incarnate” means.

      In Lent we focus on that flesh and blood as we try, with God’s help, to make our flesh and blood be more faithful at following Jesus here and now.

      Then on Easter we lift Jesus up to his divine glory.

      Many people want to leave him there, and are more comfortable with holy Jesus “up in heaven” than with human Jesus here on earth with us.

      When “some Greeks” who were in Jerusalem for Passover requested of Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” they wanted Jesus the man, flesh and blood.

      There are people today aching to see this Jesus, aching to know him and be changed by him.

      How are we showing Jesus to these folks?           

      One person who wanted to show Jesus to them, to bring back the human Jesus to our midst was a man named Clarence Jordan.

      You may have heard of him as the author of The Cotton Patch Gospels.

      I want to tell you a bit more about him.

      Clarence Jordan was a southern farmer with a doctorate in Biblical Studies from a Baptist seminary.

      One web site says about him, “Both a Biblical scholar and a prophetic man of action, Clarence Jordan lived out the New Testament in the soil of rural Georgia.”

      In 1942 Jordan and his wife founded Koinonia.

      This was a “Christian community farm” (a commune, we might say.)

      Here’s where the “prophetic man of action” comes in—Koinonia means fellowship, and this was a place for people of all races, religions, ages—all kinds of folks living and working together.

      Yes, in 1942, blacks and whites, together as one family. That barely happens today, over 3/4 of a century later.

      Koinonia, which is still an active farm with active ministries, was based on three Biblical ideals: “love through service to others; peace through reconciliation; joy through generous hospitality.”

      If you are thinking that this was a radical idea, and not well received by others in rural Georgia, you are right. The group was harassed, shot at, trees and crops and buildings were burned, and there was a petition to force them to leave the county.

      When Jordan died in October, 1969, the local coroner would not come on the property to pronounce him dead. Less than half a century ago! Unbelievable!

      Through it all Jordan and the others lived peacefully, without retaliating, so that everyone could experience, or “see” Jesus through them.

      Habitat for Humanity was started at Koinonia.

      The Cotton Patch Gospels are Jordan’s version of parts of Christian Scriptures told as if they happened in rural Georgia in the 1940’s.

      He brought Jesus down to earth so people could see him.

      He wrote, “Jesus has been so zealously worshiped, his deity so vehemently affirmed, his halo so brightly illuminated, his cross so beautifully polished, that in the minds of many he is no longer a man.

      “He has become an exquisite celestial being who momentarily and mistakenly lapsed into painful involvement in the human scene and then quite properly returned to the heavenly scene.

      “By this glorifying of him, we more affectively rid ourselves of him than did those who tried to do so by crudely crucifying him.”

      Jordan knew that if we want to really “see” Jesus, to experience the transformation he can have on our lives—the only way is to embrace the human Jesus.

      That also allows others to see Jesus in us.

      Jordan lived so that others could see Jesus in him. He was a man of peace, and he knew anger and rage at the atrocities done to him and his community.

      He was able to forgive because he knew the depth of God’s forgiveness for him and for us all.

      It is the power of that forgiveness in our own lives that enables us, empowers us, to live forgivingly and joyfully.

      We ARE forgiven, and we are still sinners. We are sinners not because we do bad things, but because we are not fully in relationship with God as God calls us to be—as we were created to be.

      Sin is being separated from God.

      So, two parts of the readings we just heard, that may have sounded incompatible, are really describing us.

      We are “sinners from our mother’s womb,” (Psalm 51) because as long as we live, we will not be in right relationship with God. AND, God has promised forgiveness.

      In Jeremiah we read, “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more” says the Lord.

      Further; the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews assures us that Jesus grants eternal salvation to all who follow him.

      If that’s not enough, Jesus says, in the Gospel, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.” (the Greek says all, not all men, or all people. ALL)

      So our lives as followers of Jesus are a balancing act—being thankful for our forgiveness and salvation by living in “love through service to others; peace through reconciliation; joy through generous hospitality,” and knowing that in this life perfection is not possible or necessary.

      Jesus’ perfection is enough for us.

      That should bring a huge sigh of relief!

      It may also help us see Jesus in others, and experience the power of love, forgiveness, compassion, joy—which I have encountered among us here, and other places.

      I have seen Jesus.

      I have seen Jesus when people care for each other, and not just “friends” but strangers and even enemies.

      The folks on the docks see Jesus in that cup of hot soup. Those who deliver the soup are Jesus to them.

      I have seen Jesus through forgiveness; through stepping out of fear and feelings of scarcity into living in the abundant life of grace that is our gift.

      I have seen Jesus in the faces and lives of those who find and accept the unlimited love that God offers to each and every one of us.

      Still, there are many who have not seen Jesus, and whose lives would be infinitely better if they could.      

      What can we do, with God’s help, to let Jesus live through us?

      We need to know Jesus, and we need worship. Worship reminds us of God’s great goodness and of how Jesus lived it. Worship is our time to be filled with that goodness and the strength to take that goodness into the world.

      How can we let God’s goodness; love, peace and joy… flow through us so that when someone says, “I would see Jesus,” they will find Jesus in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details