Tumbling in the Sand
“They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'” – John 12:21
For those of you who occasionally or frequently or rarely set foot in the doors of a church building, you may sometimes find yourself asking the question, “Why do I come?” or if you don’t ask it yourself, perhaps someone else has asked it of you along the way. Why do you come to church?
There are as many reasons to come to worship on a Sunday morning (or evening or other day of the week) as there are people who come to worship. A few of the reasons may include things like “I need to hear that I am forgiven.” or “I love to gather with a community of faith.” or “I want to be fed by the scripture and the preaching to be strengthened for the week.” or “I need to be fed by communion.” or “I grew up going to church and I can’t imagine what else I’d do on Sunday morning.” or “There is something about the liturgy that keeps me grounded.” or …
None of these are bad reasons to go to church. Actually, there isn’t a bad reason to go to church … unless it has something to do with hurting other people or thinking that by going you’re making yourself better than others. I’d say those aren’t good reasons. But, maybe even those, as long as you show up and listen, maybe God can use even those to grant grace and blessing and healing.
I am struck, however, by the Greeks’ plea to Philip here in the gospel text. And I wonder, if maybe, this might be a really great reason to come to worship. And I wonder if this might be one of the best reasons to come to worship: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Can you imagine? If you showed up to worship on Sunday or some other day with that desire in your mind and started looking for Jesus there—in that community gathered for worship, too? Might you find Jesus?
Jesus in the people sitting in the pews. Jesus in the choir. Jesus whispering in the hymns and speaking in the texts. Jesus feeding you in the bread and wine. Jesus laughing in the children and weeping in the prayers of longing. Jesus sneaking in late and heading out into the world before being dismissed. Jesus at coffee hour, rejoicing in community. Jesus all around you.
I’m not saying that it’s always going to be easy to see Jesus. Or that Jesus isn’t in other places, and you couldn’t simply step foot out of your house and look and find Jesus. But, because in worship, in community together, we get to practice seeing Jesus in places where Jesus likes to hide: like on a cross, or in a homeless man, or in a person we don’t really understand, or in the broken, the imperfect, the dying.
Next-next week is Holy Week. And I think that in Holy Week—as we read about Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, as we eat together and try to not be squeamish about washing each other’s feet, as we sit and ponder the cross and Jesus’ death, and as we head to the tomb on Easter dawn—we practice looking for and seeing Jesus.
Not a glorified, perfect deity that we tend to make God to be, mind you; but rather the true, living God who is glorified on a cross and who kneels to wash our feet and who sides with the suffering world. And then, we are invited to go and see Jesus—that Jesus—in all the world.
Featured Image: Marc Chagall’s “Exodus” from 1966.
Listen to a brief (but good) introduction to the depiction of Jesus as an image of Jewish suffering here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP9buaiKL7g