From: Emmaus Road
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.
They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
The congregation’s membership grew rapidly because it was located in a thriving community with many new businesses and housing subdivisions. Young families climbing the corporate ladders were mortgaged to the hilt, enrolled their children in good schools, and looked to worship in welcoming congregations.
It wasn’t unusual each Sunday for several new families to show up in the congregation I served. One Sunday a new family, with two little red-haired boys, sat in the pews. As was my practice, I visited new families in their homes to welcome them to the life of my congregation.
When I arrived at this family’s house, I rang the doorbell. One of the boys opened the door. Since I was dressed in a clerical collar, he knew that I was somehow connected to the church he and his family had just attended.
With surprise, he shouted out to his mom, “Jesus is here!” I laughed, as did his mom as she greeted me at the door.
The following Sunday, this family came again to Sunday school and worship at my church. Just before Sunday school concluded, I had to use the restroom. I sat in one of the stalls in the men’s room.
As if someone wanted to sneak in without being noticed, the door of the men’s room opened slowly. But the real story was that the door was heavy and difficult to open, especially for those small boys, who used all their might to gain entry.
They were curious. They looked around the men’s room until they saw the feet of someone in the stalls. They peered through the space of my stall to see who might be there, like the knothole children’s gangs of old trying to catch a glimpse of a major-league baseball game as they peered through cracks of wood. When they saw me sitting there, they shouted, “Hey, Jesus, are you in there?”
Long ago, Jesus was found at a well where a woman came to draw water. He was also found at the seashore with successful fishermen, at a gate where a blind man begged, and at the cross on a hill called Calvary. Teaching, healing, and forgiving, Jesus was found in many places.
As we walk by faith, we believe that Christ’s real presence is in, with, and under the bread and wine in Holy Communion. He’s present in the hearing of the gospel and in the least of our brothers and sisters who struggle to survive on this Earth. We see Jesus in the people of poverty in blighted neighborhoods, in refugee camps where millions have fled to escape war and oppression, and in the homeless who take shelter in stairwells of churches. With eyes of faith, we believe that Christ is present in word and sacrament and in those who are hungry, thirsty, in prison, and all alone.
Loving Savior, grant us faith to see your presence in our lives, and may we be thankful for your surprises of love.
“Jesus, Come! For we Invite You,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) #312.
1 Jesus, come! for we invite you,
guest and master, friend and Lord;
now, as once at Cana’s wedding,
speak and let us hear your word:
lead us through our need or doubting,
hope be born and joy restored.
2 Jesus, come! transform our pleasures,
guide us into paths unknown;
bring your gifts, command your servants,
let us trust in you alone:
though your hand may work in secret,
all shall see what you have done.
3 Jesus, come! in new creation,
heav’n brought near by pow’r divine;
give your unexpected glory,
changing water into wine:
rouse the faith of your disciples —
come, our first and greatest Sign!
4 Jesus, come! surprise our dullness,
make us willing to receive
more than we can yet imagine,
all the best you have to give:
let us find your hidden riches,
taste your love, believe, and live!
Sung during the season of Epiphany, this hymn implores Jesus to enter our lives as he entered the lives of many people while he walked on this Earth. When invited, Jesus comes in unexpected ways to give us the joy of his grace and to awaken our sleepy souls.
Christ and the Woman of Samaria, Rembrandt, 1655.
Does the way Rembrandt painted Jesus depict him as a teacher? What’s the facial expression of the Samaritan woman at the well? Who are the people in the background, and do you think they’re astonished at what Jesus is doing?