I spent some time listening to a podcast (shoutout to This Good Word by Steve Wiens) in preparation for our small group study of the book “Beginnings” and one line has gotten me thinking. Steve and his guest Erin Lane were discussing the “genderfulness” of God, a beautiful stretching thoughtful exchange that I encourage you to spend some time on. Go here to find it: http://thisgoodword.podbean.com/e/episode-18-god-with-erin-s-lane/ I could write about opening up to God having no gender, all genders, being more, but what caught me this time through was when Steve mentioned that Jesus was not recognized when he reappeared to His disciples. This is clear from gospel recordings in Luke, John and Mark. Yet I always assumed it was because Jesus had been transformed into an angelic figure or that the people seeing Him couldn’t get beyond the reality of having seen Him die to accept that he was there in front of them. Maybe as my pastor suggested it was because He was so broken and disfigured, reflecting humanity. But what if it was more than that?
We are taught that Jesus is the image of humanity, that He is the embodiment of the church. “He is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything. “Colossians 1:18 What if the Church, aka Jesus, no longer looked like the One we picture on the cross but the One who rose? What if we wouldn’t recognize Him because He truly transformed to include all of humanity, male and female, black, brown, yellow, white, everyone on the full continuum? Would I recognize Him? Maybe that is why we struggle with loving all of our neighbors, we struggle seeing redemption in those who are different, we don’t recognize Jesus.
It is a beautiful affirming step to see that Jesus could look like me, an aging white woman with some flab in places we should never discuss, but when I consider that very expansion includes others, that I am asked to include others, all the others, now that is some radical stuff. I might rather sit with the first step for a bit, basking in my Jesus glow, feeling accepted in all of my flaws and loved as I am. The warmth of that can heal some junk, like a heating pad on sore muscles too long constricted and tensed. Easing out the bunches of knotted memories, bring the refreshing blood flow of new life to aching wounds, I can sit with my new found vision of accepting, fully knowing Jesus, forgetting that He isn’t all mine. In fact, I think He looks just like you as well. Muscles tensing again. Nothing personal, friends.
It is nothing new to imagine Jesus is those homeless guys huddled around the fire on a street corner, cool music videos often show us the transformation. I have seen them, felt the heart tug and moved along with my day. I know the scripture “Entertain Strangers, lest they be Angels” (Hebrews 13:2) and think Chef and I live that out with intentionality. But to be honest, I see Jesus as those Others when it is convenient. When I have the time, the emotional energy, when I am in the midst of a great study. On my schedule. Hardly the stuff of neighbor loving.
Therein lies the problem for me. I want Jesus. I love Jesus. I so appreciate what He has done for me. I am willing to do some work on His behalf. Can I make that the end of the story? I don’t always want to believe that Jesus looks just like my enemy, just like the person I am struggling with, just like the annoying person who almost backed into me while looking at their phone (would Jesus really text and drive?). I most certainly don’t want to share my heating pad with these folks. I prefer to share with those who seem more like me or more needy in ways I can understand. If Jesus is the whole church, little “c”, not one denomination, not one collective that meets around the donut bar on Sundays, but the wider body of humanity, I have to expand who I am willing to want, love and appreciate, who I am willing to do some work for. This is indeed a problem.
With privilege comes responsibility. If I am to accept my Jesus as a gray-haired granny who occasionally rides a Harley and aches to travel, I just can’t limit who I reach out to. Even to those difficult folks in my life. I may even be one in someone else’s life. Don’t they see I am Jesusy? See how this works? Uncovering my inner Jesus means I have to give you room to do the same. Let’s spend some time looking closer for glimpses of what is Holy in each other. We might just be surprised. What does your Jesus look like?
1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.