Thursday, March 06, 2008

Jesus' Church

During the weeks of Lent, we have been reading a series of stories from John's Gospel. Stories of encounters between Jesus and people: Nicodemus, the woman at the well, a blind man, Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.

It would be easy to see these as simply stories - told and written down to tell us something about Jesus and how he interacts with others, whether they come with questions in the middle of the night, or at a 'local watering hole,' by a roadside, going to visit good, and old, friends. One of the reasons John tells these stories is to show us this human side of Jesus, the One who became flesh and dwells among us.

But John also tells these stories to show us how God, in Jesus, views us. He tells these stories to let us know some of God's dreams for us. He tells these stories to show us Jesus' vision (and hopes) of what the church might look like.

So, in Nicodemus, we see all those around us, especially in our highly secular culture, who have some questions about Jesus, about faith, about how doubters and wonderers might be treated if they brought such inquiries to us. They think about them in the dead of night; will we be willing to answer in the bright light of Sunday?

We see the woman at the well in our neighbors around us. Folks who work at jobs we would never take, people who live in Section 8 housing, single moms and dads struggling to keep a family together. They walk past our building wondering if the folks inside, who are so different in background, in culture, in faith, might welcome them.

We encounter folks like the blind man, those who will be seen last in ERs and doctors' offices, simply because they do not have health care. We meet them when they cry out to us for help. We ignore them when we talk about the 'whys and hows' of their lives, rather than being willing to engage with them, to get a little 'muddy' to be a part of their lives.

And every time we go to a funeral, every time we attend a memorial service, every time we stand by an open grave on a wintry day, we have a chance to be with the Marthas and Marys all around us, and witness with them that 'yes, Lord, we believe; even in our despair, we believe.'

John gives us a clear and compelling vision of what Jesus' church should look like. Is it our vision?

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman