Sermon for Lent V - March 21, 2021
20210321. Sermon for V Lent, Year B
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector
Christ Episcopal Church
 
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
 
When the Greeks came to Peter and Andrew, this is what they said. But what happened? P&A, as far as we can tell, didn't bring them to Jesus. They went to Jesus and told him what the Greeks had said, and that's the last we hear of those Greeks.
 
We might think there are more theologically important things in the passage than this short story. But it's the part that stopped me cold this time through.
"We want to see Jesus." Isn't that why we come to church? Isn't that why we come together to pray together, to read the Scriptures and learn and worship?
 
But where is Jesus? Where has Jesus been for the last year?
 
Where was Jesus just a few days ago when a self-proclaimed follower of Jesus took it into his head to buy a gun and kill eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, because he was all wound up with perverted ideas of sexual purity, blaming them for his own inability to find balance, and had absorbed the bizarre idea that the objects of his sexual fantasies were the cause of his sexual fantasies.
 
Where was Jesus when Derek Chauvin, charged with the duty to protect and serve, kneeled on George Floyd's neck - while he was begging for his mother and his life - until he died?
 
Where was Jesus when hundreds of angry Americans stormed and invaded the U.S. Capitol baying for the Vice President and Speaker of the House with threats of violence and death?
 
I'll tell you where Jesus was - he was predicting his own death at the hands of the leaders of his own faith, his own people, at the instigation of the crowds who would soon welcome him into Jerusalem with palm fronds and cloaks spread on the ground before him, crying hosanna in the highest!
 
And I will tell you where Jesus was in Atlanta - he was in those massage parlors, with the victims of a violent hate crime. In Minneapolis he was kneeling next to George Floyd as he took his last anguished breaths. And in Washington DC he was with Officer Sicknick and the others who were trying to defend Congressional staffers and the people's representatives from harm and death, and he was with those staffers and representatives, as well.
 
How do I know this?
 
Because I know Jesus.
 
Because Jesus told us that is where we can always find him - with the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the victims of mindless violence, vicious lies, and convenient hatreds.
 
"Whatever you have done for the least of these my children, you have done for me."
 
Do we want to see Jesus? Really, really see him? Then we need to look for him in the faces of all who are targeted by hate, all who are oppressed by rules and laws and traditions that tell them they are not worthy. People of Color. People who call God by different names than we use. People who don't speak English. People who look different, dress differently, act differently, vote differently than ourselves. People whose sexual and gender identities are not hetero-normative. People who are struggling to make ends meet, people who fall and fail and don't meet our uncompromising and impossible standards.
 
Jesus is not in the hearts and minds of those who hate, those who target others, those who ignore the needs and basic human dignity of any person.
 
He is not there.
 
You know, as well as I, that there are always voices to tell us what to think about the "Others" in our midst. But that does not - should not - must not - cannot mean that we should shut our ears to the voices of the Others themselves. If our faith means anything, if our desire to see Jesus is real as we profess, then we are under the strongest obligation to stand with those whom we are so carefully taught to hate and despise or even just simply ignore.
Pay no attention to the proverbial man behind the curtain, who is trying to cover up his own fears in a blast of sound and fury designed to manipulate and misdirect us into division and death.
 
Pay attention to Jesus.
 
Jesus is always nearby, ready to respond to those who ask forgiveness and a change of heart and direction. He is on the lookout for the lost sheep.
If we truly want to see Jesus, then let us look for him in the faces of XiaoJie Tan. Delaina Yuan. Paul Andre Michels. Daoyou Feng. Yong Ae Yue. Hyun Jung Grant. Soon Chung Park. Suncha Kim. George Floyd. Brian Sicknick. Refugees, prisoners, captives, the sick, the dying, the poor.
 
And while we are looking for Jesus, seek him also in the faces of those who help: the healthcare workers who have labored long in the pandemic; advocates for justice; rescue workers responding to disasters; scientists seeking cures for disease; voters standing in endless lines. Seek him in your mirror.
 
May his light shine in your face as you walk out into the world. And when the strangers say, "Sir, or Ma'am, or Preacher, or Hey, we wish to see Jesus," let it be you.
 
  May 2021  
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