Sunday, April 12, 2015

“Startling Faith: He Just Keeps Showing Up” (John 20:19-31)

Has anyone ever met “Kilroy”?  I know I haven’t, but from the evidence found throughout the world he seems to get around . . . so, surely, someone has met the infamous “Kilroy”.  Don’t know what I am talking about?  Well, maybe you have seen those little graffiti drawings of a bald-headed man with a prominent nose peeking over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall with the words “Kilroy was here” written next to it.  Apparently that is “Kilroy’s” trademark letting people know that he was there. 

According to my research, “Kilroy was here”, was a popular cultural expression that was popular during the Second World War . . . in particular with American servicemen.  It seems that the GIs liked to draw the doodle on the walls and other places where they were stationed, encamped, or visited.  Despite the phrase being written everywhere, it seems no one ever caught up with the infamous “Kilroy”.  No one ever saw the guy but he was showing up everywhere.

As a people of faith I sometimes wonder if we do not have the same problem when it comes to Jesus . . . wonder how many of us have actually encountered Jesus in our own lives . . . seen him with our own eyes . . . touched him with our own hands.  More often than not I think we encounter the reminder . . . the graffiti on the wall . . . that announces that “Jesus was here”.  When we look around our lives of faith it seems as if Jesus has been everywhere; yet, we cannot actually say that we peered into the eyes of our Lord and Master . . . at least not like the early disciples did.

After the death and resurrection it seems that everywhere the disciples went . . . no matter how well they hid themselves . . . Jesus was always showing up.  In our reading this morning we have reference that he showed up numerous times . . . two in particular . . . and mingled with his disciples.  It was the real “McCoy” as they even had the opportunity to touch him and talk to him . . . Jesus was there.  And, the writer of John’s gospel tells us that he even performed other miraculous signs in their presence.

Yep, Jesus was there, and the writer of John’s gospel wrote it all down . . . a sort of theological “Kilroy . . . or Jesus . . . was here” statement . . . so that the readers “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  He does this because it seems that most of us are always a second too late, a dollar short, and always missing that physical meeting with Jesus.  Yet, we are among the blessed for having not actually seen him . . . Jesus tells Thomas:  “. . . blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Few of us have ever had a Damascus Road experience or encounter with Jesus like the Apostle Paul . . . yet, we know he exists and we believe.  We have seen his presence all around us . . . felt his presence surrounding us . . . seen his touch in the lives of those who we know . . . we have seen the miracles . . . we have seen the writing on the wall: “Jesus was here”.  Yet, we long for that face-to-face “show me” encounter—just like Thomas.  We want to put our fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hands . . . we want to touch the wound in his side . . .

The journey of Easter is a search for the presence of Jesus in our lives and in the world around us . . . and, surprisingly, Jesus is all around us.  He just keeps on showing up.  And, more often than not, our encounters with the Risen Lord are startling.  Those first encounters of Jesus with his disciples had to be startling affairs.  Here were the disciples in hiding behind locked doors, and Jesus shows up.  Over and over again Jesus shows up, catching the disciples off guard.  And, so it seems he does the same thing to us . . . and, we are startled to realize that we have been in the presence of Jesus.

I think that it is with perfect 20/20 hindsight that we come to this realization . . . what we read the graffiti on the wall.  Yet, in looking back we know that Jesus was there.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus gave us plenty of examples of when he would be in our presence.  He told us in the parable of the sheep and goats . . . that whenever we encounter “one of the least of these” we would encounter him.  He also told us that whenever two or three are gathered in his name, he would be in our presence . . . he would be with us.  He is there whether we see him or not . . .

. . . and, we have to believe.

During this Easter season, where are we going to find Jesus?

Well, we know that we are not going to find him in the empty tomb because he is not there.  We are going to find him in the world around us.  I do not think that any of us are so oblivious of the world around us that we cannot see those who are considered “the least of these”.  We have seen the hungry, the naked, the lonely, the downtrodden, the poor, the imprisoned, those caught in the middle of war, those who are persecuted, and those on the outside looking in.  The newspaper is filled with such stories on daily basis.  The television and radio blast us constantly with visual reports of those who are less fortunate.  We cannot escape it . . . and, yet, we wonder where in the world is Jesus?

Jesus is there.  Jesus is among the less fortunate.  We know this is true because we have seen the writing on the wall . . . we have heard the stories of his miraculous touch in their lives.  Jesus is alive and well, but he is out there in the world with those who have been deemed as “less than”.  But we will never encounter him until we, too, are willing to walk with and among those who are less fortunate.  It is there that we, ourselves, will encounter the Risen Christ.

That is where we must look for Jesus during this Easter season.  We must be willing to actively participate in the world around us . . . to reach out to those who are less fortunate than ourselves . . . to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to be present to the lonely, to free the imprisoned.  Strangely that is not where we expect to find Jesus, yet that is where he told us he would be.  To find him there is startling . . . startling because it goes against our societal practices of everyone taking care of him or herself . . . of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and moving on . . . everyone for him or herself.  

There is evidence of the presence of Jesus all around us.  We have all heard the stories from those who have encountered his presence in their lives . . . heard the miracles.  Jesus was here.  And, yet, we still long for that for ourselves . . . and, we continue to believe.  We continue to believe because we are among the blessed who have not seen, but believe.  Easter is the time to move beyond belief into faith . . . faith is belief in action.  It is in the action that we will encounter the living Jesus.

May we all encounter the Risen Christ this Easter season . . . may we meet him in the actions that we take to love the Lord our God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  If we do we will find that Jesus is always showing up.  Amen.

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