Monday Matters (October 8, 2018)


 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
-John 12:21

The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside our Church: The
-Mary Oliver

Something has happened to the bread and the wine
They have been blessed. What now?
The body leans forward to receive the gift from the priest’s hand,
Then the chalice
They are something else now from what they were before this began.
I want to see Jesus
Maybe in the clouds or on the shore,
Just walking
Beautiful man and clearly someone else besides.
On the hard days I ask myself if ever will.
Also there are times my body whispers to me
That I have.

One more church sign that was just sent to me yesterday:

America, the donkey and the elephant won’t help. We must turn back to the lamb.

More on Church Signs

Amid the changes and chances of life, I’m grateful for this example of constancy in my journey. It is the ongoing ministry of friends who send me photos of church signs, spotted in travels around the country. It’s a ministry to be encouraged. It’s a ministry open to all. It began as sort of a hobby, when I saw a church sign posted on a trailer, with movable letters like those on movie marquees, bearing this Easter message: The Lord is risen. No Bingo.

Last week, another seasonal greeting came to me by way of an observant friend. The sign read: Fall for Jesus. He never leaves. Earlier this year, I received a collection of photos of church signs that included this timely message: Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted. Another read: Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

On a recent drive through eastern North Carolina, directed to back roads through small towns because interstates were flooded, I drove by a church sign which read: Jesus is alive. Come into our church to meet him. On the road, I had time to think about that sign, and the ways I would rephrase it. I wasn’t sold on the message.

The fact is: Jesus may or may not be met in church. He may or may not be encountered among really religious people. In fact, in olden days and in current times, the most religious people may provide the greatest obstacle to faith.

The fact is: Jesus cannot be contained in religious space. He spent relatively small amount of time in the temple. When he was there, he had a tendency to rearrange the furniture. That didn’t go over well.

The fact is: Jesus was more likely to be met on the road, out in the desert, at weddings and parties, at a pub, at places he wasn’t supposed to be, with people he shouldn’t be talking to.

Tempted as I was, I didn’t tamper with that church sign. I have too much spiritual work to do on my own life and my own community before I start trying to fix some other church. But that sign, for all its goofy, errant theology, made me think about where it is I would go to meet Jesus.

He is met in scripture. He is met in the bread and wine of the eucharist. He is met in preaching, though I do have a friend who was told as a new rector that she mentioned the name Jesus too often in her sermons. She was told that Episcopalians don’t do that. (Try telling that to Michael Curry!)

In several churches I know, there’s a plaque on the pulpit for just the preacher to see. It reads: We would see Jesus, a citation from the gospel of John noted above . It’s a great aspiration for a sermon for sure. But it’s also a great aspiration for our lives outside of church. What would it mean to focus on that goal this week?

You may well meet Jesus in church. It has been known to happen. But it’s just one of many places for that kind of encounter. In our baptism, we say we will seek Christ in all persons. The implication is that everyone provides an opportunity for that to occur. Matthew 25 tells us that much to our surprise, we can meet Jesus in ministry to the hungry, the imprisoned, those who lack clothing, those who lack health. Too often those people never make it into our churches.

Be ready to meet Jesus this week, wherever that might happen. He shows up in a lot of places.

-Jay Sidebotham

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