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Looking for Jesus in All the Wrong Places

April 20, 2019

This little grouping of stones in the Knoll-Willow Open Space caught my eye the first time we visited this space in the middle of town in 2015. It also catches my imagination as I can visualize it as the tomb hewn into the rock where they placed Jesus’ body on Good Friday.

At sunrise on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb. Grief stricken, they moved numbly, yet with haste toward their destination. They hadn’t even thought about how to move the stone that covered the tomb. All they wanted to do was finish the preparations of the body of their dear Jesus since Joseph and Nicodemus had been racing against the sunset and the beginning of the Sabbath.

They would offer their Lord a final gift of comfort and love as they completed the preparations for his burial. Mary Magdalene, were you remembering when you anointed his feet with perfume and your tears? Were you remembering how you wiped his feet with your hair? Would you still smell the perfume in the tomb, despite all the horrors he had endured?

They got to the tomb and not only was the stone rolled away, it was empty! Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes came to them. Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

Then they remembered his words and told the gathered disciples and companions the news. The women were the first to share the Good News but the disciples didn’t believe them. Only when Peter went and saw for himself that the tomb was empty and the linen cloths were laying by themselves did he believe.

They still didn’t know fully what had happened. They only knew that the tomb was empty and that the mysterious strangers had told them that Jesus had risen!

As I contemplate the experience of the women at the tomb, I hear the question of the mysterious strangers over and over again. Why do you look for the living among the dead? Strangely enough, the song which came into my head was a song from the movie, Urban Cowboy! Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.

At that point I realized the connection between the song and this event. The mysterious strangers were essentially asking the women (and me as I immersed myself into the narrative in the Ignatian way) why they were Looking for Jesus in all the Wrong Places!

To be honest, that question hit me like a ton of bricks! It is a question not only for your Padre but for all who seek to follow Christ. Do we only look for him in the Sacraments? Do we only look for him in our elaborate sanctuaries and Cathedrals? Do we only look for him in our rituals, our prayers, and our Bibles? I am not saying that those places are places of the dead. I am saying that we limit our ability to see Jesus in our midst! If we only look for Jesus there, we are missing the point and the calling to see Jesus in the world.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told the people that when they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave something to drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, visited the sick, and visited the prisoner. In other words, when you reached out and treated the so-called least of these as your Sister, your Brother, you are welcoming Jesus! One of the initiatives that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is the Matthew 25 Initiative. This, along with the Hands and Feet Initiative we practiced at the 223rd General Assembly (#GA223) in St Louis in 2018, urges us to take the mission and ministry of Jesus out of the sanctuaries and into the streets.

Over and over again, I read and hear in my heart and spirit the call to reach out beyond our comfort zone (the sacred hour on Sunday morning) and take this ministry into the streets. How can we Do Justice? How can we Love Kindness and Mercy? How can we Walk Humbly with God if we stay inside of our comfort zone? How can we Love God and Love Neighbor if we never venture outside of the sanctuary or our personal devotion time and into the streets?

Dear reader, are we looking for Jesus in all the wrong places? Will you join me in moving outside of the comfort zone and the familiar? Will you join me in becoming a Matthew 25 and a Micah 6:8 Christ-follower?

Can you imagine being a part of Isaiah’s vision in Chapter 65? The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

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