Summary: A sermon about seeing Jesus in the other.
"Would We Recognize Jesus?"
When I owned a rock and roll tee-shirt shop in a mall, I decided to start "cooling it" on the heavy metal music in the store as I was no longer selling those kinds of tee-shirts and I was having an amazing experience of falling back in love with Jesus.
So, I played some of the lighter kind of music.
One morning Elton John was on the stereo and the UPS delivery guy whom I had become pretty good friends with came in with a package for me.
The only thing he said that morning as he put the package down was, "I hate Elton John because he's gay!!!"
I remember feeling very sad about that.
I remember thinking it to be a horrible thing to hate homosexuals, Elton John or anyone for any reason, for that matter.
I still feel that way.
On the first Easter Sunday two of Jesus' disciples were walking home.
The party was over and their candidate had lost.
He had been nailed to a Cross and stuck in a tomb.
They had "hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel," but they would now have to look for someone else.
They were really dejected...
And here they were, on a 7 mile walk home and some guy, who doesn't seem to "have a clue" about much of anything, takes the 7 mile walk with them.
This "seemingly" clueless guy is Jesus Himself, and He's not dead; as a matter of fact He's more alive than ever before.
But they don't recognize Him.
Could it be that they don't recognize Jesus because they don't really know Who Jesus is?
Could it be that because they thought Jesus was dead--no matter what Jesus looked like--they weren't going to recognize a walking, talking Jesus?
Who is Jesus to you?
Who is Jesus to me?
Would we recognize Him if we ran into Him on the way home, or in line at Walmart?
Would we know Jesus if He were sitting in one of these pews this morning?
Would we recognize Him if He were giving a sermon?
And what if Jesus looked like a hungry guy coming to our food pantry?
Would we recognize Him?
How about if Jesus knocked on our door and asked for a drink of water or was an obvious stranger...
...perhaps someone who looked middle-eastern, or was Mexican and spoke no English?
Would we welcome Him?
Would we ask Him to sit with us, invite Him out to lunch?
Would we recognize Him?
What if Jesus were naked or sick?
Would we know He was the King of the Universe or would we judge Him, ignore Him or condescendingly throw Him a pair of jeans and a can of chicken noodle soup...or maybe even call the cops?
Of course, I'm picking up these images of Jesus from Matthew Chapter 25 where Jesus compares Himself to a starving person, a homeless person, an illegal alien, someone with no clothes, a sick person and a prisoner--perhaps someone on death row--"the least of these" as He puts it.
He says in effect: "When you have treated the most vulnerable in society like they were just as important and worthy of love as anyone else...
...then you have treated Me this way."
"When you have neglected, ignored, judged, or devalued any one of your fellow human beings you have neglected, ignored, judged, and devalued Me."
Apparently, Jesus is so involved in the lives of the persons He created...
...the persons He loves...
...the persons He died for...
...that when we see another human being we are actually, in many ways, seeing Jesus.
So let's go on with this a bit more.
Would we recognize Jesus if He were a young person struggling with his or her sexuality?
Would we have compassion on Him?
Would we love Him no matter what?
Or would we judge Him and shut Him out--leaving Him to feel even more unloved, unwanted, marginalized, freaky, alone and inhuman than He already felt before we met Him?
Would we recognize Jesus if He were mentally ill?
Would we love Him and try and help Him if He were struggling with schizophrenia, hearing voices and talking to Himself...
...or would we quickly move to the other side of the street and pass Him by?
What if Jesus were a young unwed pregnant teenage girl?
Would we judge Him?
Would we think He was immoral?
Would we think we were better than Him?
I don't know about you but this is kind of making me feel a bit uncomfortable.
But, you know, even though I have studied the Bible for a better part of 30 years...
...even though I have Masters Degree from Emory University on the subject...