Missing: Jesus...

Sitting down today with some classmates, we talked about a shooting that happened recently in Evanston. A 14 year old young man was shot through the chest on his way home from a party. Our group leader spoke of a candlelight vigil that was held in his honor for the boy's family. People who gathered spoke of the communal nature of raising children, yet of the 200 people gathered, only ten were persons of Caucasian descent. So much for community, right?

               In times of such visible evil, such tangible sin, where is the Creator? Does God take sides, and if so, whose side is God on? What does God have to say about the ways in which we treat each other? I'm not simply talking about the violence and murder. I'm talking about something as simple as responding to the homeless person on the street who asks for some change. I'm talking about giving thought into what purchases we make, not because we want to be thrifty, but because we care about the person on the other end of that dollar bill who makes the things we buy. I'm talking about taking control over the way we think of and perceive those around us... the ways we label and judge and criticize them.

We were talking about what it means to carry a prophetic message into a congregational setting when we came across the dilemma over how to deliver a challenging message while not isolating yourself from those whom you serve. Simultaneously we were discussing how to be faithful to God while honoring the covenants and oaths we make to the denominations who ordain us. In a moment of righteous anger and frustration, I believe I said something like this: "As for delivering the tough message, Jesus said he came to bring life and life more abundantly, and since he's not here in person, that leaves us to do the work, or at least to be a part of it. And since we can't do it alone, nor should we have to, if we don't bring those we serve into a place of action outside the church walls, then we may as well shut the doors. I'm not there to play house... and when I am, I still leave sorely disappointed. Last time I checked, my obligation is first and foremost to the Gospel as I understand it... not to some organizational charter. I understand the reason for being asked to be faithful to a denomination... there has to be some unity. But don't ask me to put your set of rules over and above the red letters." Some of this may have been in my head and not spoken, but that's the blessing of hindsight, right?

Is Jesus ever really missing from the work we do to build community, to see the world around us redeemed? I don't think so. He's only gone when we ask him to be... when we want to take the credit, as if redemption is our idea. But when we ask him to be present, and to empower the work we feel he's called us to be a part of, then he shows up, loves both on us and through us, and makes it possible for us to change the world around us, and change it in a way where his handprint is visible. But we have to be willing to do it. Even more so, we have to be willing to step outside and across the lines we've drawn that keep us from sharing that work and that burden with those who are also called to catalyze redemption... people of different colors, genders, nationalities, denominations, belief systems, sexual orientations, or any other identifier we use to delineate "us" and "them."

Jesus isn't missing from the world. He's there with both the sinner and the sinned against, loving on both equally. What's missing most of the time is our attention, our conviction to live out the challenge he's called us to. What's missing is our love for his other children. And as long as that's gone, the process of redemption, I think, gets stunted... slows down. I don't want to be the one to put limits on how God changes the world. I want to be the one who is there when God does something big... or little. When something redemptive happens, and I'm there, I get to see Jesus, even if by another face or name than I usually see or hear. Redemption is hard to miss...

Unless you're missing...