I was on the way from church Easter morning when someone called from a passing car, “He is risen!” I looked up to see the smiling face of a neighbor.
“Who?” I responded.
“Jesus!” she shot back.
“When?” I asked.
“Every day!” she answered.
That got me to musing: if Jesus is alive, what is he doing today?
A young friend went to be pastor of a dying church in Vancouver, Canada. Attendance was dropping. The congregation was ageing. Twenty pastors had come and gone in twenty years. It was not a promising place to start his ministry. But he had vision and faith for the future, and made some innovations including a praise band.
After hearing the band an irate woman stomped up and said, “If Jesus heard those drums he’d turn over in his grave”! In her conscious mind the resurrection was ancient history, not current events.
So if Jesus is as alive as the first disciples reported, where is he now and what is he doing?
I know a brilliant Indian businessman whose small son was healed from a life-threatening illness after Christians prayed for him. Atul was skeptical, until one night he woke and realized Jesus was actually present in the room and speaking to him. He went to his knees, praying, “My Lord and my God”, and his life course completely changed.
Unlike Atul I cannot claim to have seen or heard Jesus in the flesh. I am more like the two disheartened disciples after his execution, who thought Jesus was a stranger when he came up to them as they walked on a country road. Only when he pointed them to prophecies about a suffering Messiah, and broke bread with them in a meal, were their hearts and eyes opened to recognize: he was alive! Then he was gone. They ran to tell the others, “Our hearts were burning within us as he talked with us.”
The rest of the story is that what Jesus began to do and teach he continued to do, through his disciples, through the Holy Spirit he sent to be his continuing presence in the world.
That’s what makes my heart burn – to sense Jesus’ presence with the company of others, as we read the gospel story, break the bread of our lives together, and share the good news.
At family lunch at Easter I asked each one: where have you sensed Jesus this year? A granddaughter said, “In Israel, at Gethsemane, with my dad.” Our son spoke of the beauty of the mountains. Our daughter spoke of her son’s life spared in a terrible motorcycle accident and of those who helped him.
My wife Jeanie said, “God’s presence for me is a relationship. Like marriage. I don’t always think of Leighton. But I always know I love him. And I know he’s there.”
Where is Jesus? Sometimes it’s in the special epiphanies. More often it’s in the ordinary events of life even when I may not recognize it at the time – until I recollect that he is always at work, everywhere.
And that church in Vancouver? It has grown tremendously. Four thousand came to worship over Easter weekend. They have received the Governor General’s award for service to their community. And, not long ago, a prostitute in Stanley Park told her pimp that she was desperate, did not know where to turn.
“Go to Tenth Avenue Church,” he said, “They can help you.”
That’s current events, not ancient history. It doesn’t take drums to let us know Jesus is not back in his grave.
A prayer (borrowed from Lloyd Ogilvie) that Christ will live and love through me.
“Lord, be in my mind, think your thoughts in me, be my wisdom, knowledge, insight. Be in my voice, free me to speak with silence of words, whatever is needed. Be in my face, my eyes, my touch, my embrace. I plan to live this day in the reality of you in me. Thank you for making it so.”