Monday, April 9, 2012

Where's Jesus?

In Nomine Iesu
John 13, 1 Cor. 11
April 5, 2012
Maundy Thursday B

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus~

The question of the day for this Maundy Thursday is a simple one: Where’s Jesus? And it turns out that the answers to that question are also quite simple—but at the same time, very, very profound. Where’s Jesus?

Even little children are able to tell you that church is a likely place to find Jesus. I’ll never forget the time when one of the little children here at Our Savior came walking up the steps one Sunday morning. His face was beaming as he looked up at me, shook my hand, and said, “Good morning, Jesus.” Nothing quite prepares you for a greeting like that.

Where’s Jesus? Lutheran pastor and storyteller, Walter Wangerin, has written about his own childhood search to find Jesus while at worship. Upon finally realizing that Jesus must be hiding in the most mysterious and off-limits place in the church, he ventures into that sacred place—a place you and I call the women’s restroom. But of course, he doesn’t find Jesus there. But when he returns to the pew and sits down next to his mother, he smells a sweet scent on her breath (for you see, she had just communed.) “Mama,” he asks, “What’s that smell?” To which she replies with a sweet, simple and profound answer: “It’s Jesus.” It was at that moment that the little boy realizes that Jesus has been right next to him all along.

Maundy Thursday is the perfect time to be reminded of that truth—that Jesus Christ comes no closer to us at any other time than He does in His Holy Supper—that our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread. And when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you—that in the same way He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Where’s Jesus? He has located Himself in the bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood—where sinners like us can literally taste and see that the Lord is good.

We need to repent of those times when our participation in this meal has been marked by a careless, casual attitude. Worship in general—and the Lord’s Supper in particular—is heaven on earth, the real presence of the living Christ to serve His people with forgiveness and faith. It’s no time for irreverence. It’s no time for impatience for how long it takes to get everyone served. But it is a time for each of us to examine ourselves—to see whether we are sorry for our sins, whether we are willing to forgive those who’ve sinned against us, and whether we plan (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to change our sinful lives. One pastor put it this way: We should go the Lord’s Supper as though going to our death, so that we can go to our death as though going to the Lord’s Supper. Why so much care and concern over bread and wine? Because Jesus is here (in this meal) for you.

Where’s Jesus? He is not just in the sacrament. There’s another place too. For the events of that Thursday night in the upper room make it clear that Jesus can be found in the most unexpected of places. I’d give you a clue, but I’d first have to take off my shoes and socks. And except for the beach or the swimming pool, most people prefer to avoid other people’s feet most of the time. You know why: dirt and lint, sweat and stink, grit and grime, calluses, bunions, planter’s warts, ingrown toe nails and fungus are just a few of the foot problems out there.

But on that Thursday night when He was betrayed, Jesus knelt down with water and a towel to wash and cleanse the dirty, disgusting feet of His disciples. The Lord and creator of all bent down low to do the job of the lowliest servant. The master became the slave. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. “Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet,” Jesus said, “you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” And just a bit later Jesus added, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Where’s Jesus? Jesus is wherever His disciples are busy washing dirty, disgusting feet. Jesus is in you, whenever you are busy bending down low, doing the work that no one else wants to do. Luther went so far as to say that when you do the difficult chores of your vocations, you are a “mask of God.” Jesus Himself is at work through your work. Oh, sure, you may look like an ordinary parent—an ordinary neighbor, friend or citizen—but the Lord Jesus lives in your words, and in your works of mercy.

If Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, was willing to scrub the scum from between the toes of sinners, then is there any task that’s beneath your dignity? And since Jesus did this on the eve of His execution, is there ever a time when you can rightly refuse to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Service in the way of Jesus always means bending down, getting off your high horse, setting aside your pride and ego. It’s not the way of the disciple to say “that’s below my pay grade” or to say, “I’ve done my turn and now it’s your turn.” No, this love for the neighbor doesn’t keep score, doesn’t count the cost, is never given in the hope of getting repaid later.

The world out there cannot see the love of Jesus. The people that you deal with day in and day out can’t see Jesus’ love. They can hear it. They can experience it. But they can’t see Jesus’ love. What they can see is you—and in you, the love of Jesus. “This is how the world will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “that you love one another.”

Where’s Jesus? He is hidden under bread and wine. Do you feel weak, weary and overwhelmed with life? Then come to His Supper and be refreshed. Do you feel burdened with guilt and shame over your sin? The come to His Supper and receive the full forgiveness He earned for you by His suffering and death. Does the thought of sickness and death leave you frightened? Then come to His Supper and receive faith—faith that will sustain you in body and soul to life everlasting.

Where’s Jesus? He’s not only hidden under bread and wine; but He’s also hidden in your words and deeds of mercy and love. Tonight He gives you not just faith and forgiveness, but also “fervent love for one another.” He gives you His life. He also gives you a pattern for life. And that pattern is love. Amen.

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