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First Congregational

United Church of Christ

... exploring the frontiers of faith in Jesus

Seeing Jesus

WWJD. What would Jesus do? You've probably heard the expression. You may have worn the bracelet. WWJD. What would Jesus do?

Its a cue, a reminder, to frame the decisions we make and the actions we take in the context of Jesus' way of thinking and acting. We decide what to do by supposing what Jesus would do if he were in our place, if he were facing a similar situation. If Jesus were here, what would he do?

But there is one flaw with this approach. It depends on supposing. I use imagination to posit what I believe Jesus would do, if he were here. But Jesus is here! I don't have to imagine him. I can see him! The question is not "What would Jesus do?" but "What is Jesus doing?"

The world will see me no more, but you will see me ...

That's the promise Jesus made to his followers. "In a little while the world will see me no more" and it doesn't. The world may remember Jesus, talk about him, diss him or disparage him or admire him, but the world doesn't see him. To them, he is long dead, long gone. But we know he is not: "The world will see me no more, but you will see me."

We can see him, because he lives. Before everything else, Christians are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. We are Easter people, eager to recognize and make ourselves a part of all that Jesus is doing among us and in our world here and now. We know Jesus is alive, because we can see him.

Where? Where do we see him?

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Life in all its fullness

But what is it? How would you describe it -- life in all its fullness? I asked that question to members of our program staff this last Tuesday afternoon. Let me share with you their responses, our responses.

Hannah said that life in all its fullness would be a life that was especially good: full of joy, full of love, full of everything good. It would be a life brimming over with all the good things God gives.

Ben said life in all its fullness would be a life that includes the full spectrum of human experience: sorrow as well as joy, struggle as well as success. Because it is the one that makes the other all the sweeter and because it is simply part of being human, of living the fullness of life. Jesus himself knew the full range of human experience and emotion: joy and grief, friendship and enmity, intimacy and rejection.

Miah said life in all it fullness means knowing that the life you have is good, no matter what. This life we have, as it is, is good, because we have it, because God gives it. We experience life in all its fullness when we embrace the life we have, when we live fully into the life we have.

And I said life in all its fullness would a life that is not closed off, closed in, self-contained. Life in all its fullness is a life that includes so much more than me, so much more than my neighborhood, so much more than the life with which I am already familiar.

Life in all its fullness means knowing and embracing people different from me, places and ways and customs and ideas different from mine.

Life in all its fullness means seeing all the different colors, hearing all the different sounds, experiencing new ways of experiencing the world and new ways of praising its Maker.

We enjoy life in all its fullness when we are conscious of our place as one part of the glorious and wonderfully diverse body of Christ on this earth, when we love the church, as Pope Francis says, for the "beauty of her varied face."

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Shalom

We wait for what God has promised

Earth

... new heavens and a new earth!

• Read my essay, Heaven can wait

Staff Corner

"I was hungry and you fed me."

It's clear. It's specific. It's indisputable. Jesus said this is what righteous people do.

The author of the gospel of Matthew places this message at the end of the twenty-fifth chapter, just before beginning the account of Jesus' last days -- his passion, his arrest, trail, and execution. These are Jesus' "final words," his "parting message," to his followers. This is what matters. It is by this standard that you will be measured. "I was hungry and you fed me."

But when did we ever see the Lord hungry and feed him? Whenever you did this for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me. That is Jesus' message. Clear. Specific. Not metaphorical, but quite literal. You see a hungry person? Feed her and you feed Jesus.

I was overcome with grief and horror when I read about the plight of the people of the Horn of Africa as I was doing research for last Sunday's sermon. Twenty million people in Somalia and South Sudan and Yemen at risk of severe famine. The equivalent of the entire population of Iowa and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Missouri combined, all starving to death.

If that were indeed true here, we would think it a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. It is a crisis of apocalyptic proportions! I could not do nothing: "I was hungry and you fed me." If you want to do something, consider a gift to the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), a relief organization based in Minneapolis. A gift of $150 supplies one family with a relief package that includes a "food basket, nutrition packs for children, and water" (https://araha.org/drought-relief-2/).

In rural Haiti, only half the people have access to an improved water source, water free from contamination. "I was thirsty and you gave me a drink." If you want to do something for thirsty people in Haiti or elsewhere around the globe where people lack access to potable water, consider a donation to charity: water (https://www.charitywater.org).

"I was a stranger and you received me in your homes." As followers of Jesus, we must be at the center of the debate about the response of our nation and local communities to the immigrants and refugees among us, because Jesus told us that our welcome of strangers is a measure of our welcome of him. As a church, we have welcomed a community of Burmese worshippers into our "home," and that matters. Other churches have sponsored refugee families, or provided legal services to refugees and undocumented immigrants, or advocated for a compassionate response to foreigners among us. Some have chosen to identify as sanctuary churches. There is no one "right" response, but we must respond in some way because the stranger among us is Jesus.

Tim