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And now for something completely different!

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A few years ago, Kenton used Seeing the Unseen Christ as a worship series. The underlying thought was; “How would you respond if Jesus physically attended your church for eight Sundays in a row?” Let me ask that question in a different way as we continue toward Jerusalem with Jesus.

If Jesus were physically here with us today what difference, would it make? What would you ask Him about? What would you ask Him to show you? What would you ask Him to do? What would you whine and complain about?

If Jesus were here, if His resurrected body came here and sat down among us would our first reaction be to say, “Why didn’t you!” or would we worship. One of the great beliefs among the followers of Jesus is that Jesus IS HERE!  It’s not a wishful thought but an absolute truth. His presence is THE source of power for those who rely on Jesus for each day of recovery. His presence is THE place of comfort for those lives torn apart by grief and guilt. His presence is THE accepting arms of the long-watching Father for the returning screwed up younger child.

The last teaching of Jesus that Matthew records is Jesus’ promise that He would never leave us[1]. In the story of Jesus’ birth, the angel tells Mary that Jesus would be Emmanuel, God with us[2].  Paul calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Jesus[3] and Jesus says that the Spirit that has come to those who believes is “another like”[4] Himself, exactly like Himself.

The issue of whether or not Jesus is here is moot. It is a fact, simply because we have gathered in Jesus’ name and His promise is to be among us when that happens[5]. The question remains, what do we do now that He is here? And this is one of the overarching themes on this Lenten journey.

Jesus is at Lazarus’ home with his sister, Martha and Mary. Martha is serving the meal. Not unlike other times when Jesus visited. Lazarus is the talk of the town after all, he’d been raised back to life after being dead four days. The disciples were there as well as those who hated Jesus.

And then there was Mary. Mary, who listened intently at the feet of Jesus. Mary, of whom Jesus said she’d chosen the better portion. Mary, who along with her sister, was certain that Jesus’ presence would have prevented Lazarus’ death.  We have no record of what Jesus talked about at that dinner. All we know is that the impression he made on Mary was such that she did something impressively simple and profound.

She took the most expensive item she had, a pint of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. As the odor permeates around the table Judas Iscariot become upset over the apparent waste. And Jesus’ response is that she did the right thing.

What we have is two ways of responding to Jesus’ presence; two ways of dealing with Christ in our midst. Mary’s response is one of worship and adoration; preparation and love. Judas’ is one of human pragmatism and monetary value.  He is absorbed by a human sense of value. She has been drawn into a vision of God’s love made flesh. Judas is focused on the thing. Mary is focused on the person.

Judas embodies the common saying, “What’s in it for me?” His dedication to Jesus is tempered with a desire to be important in his own right. Judas’ faith in Jesus is tempered by hanging onto the world just in case this Jesus doesn’t work out.

Christ’s presence isn’t life changing for Judas. It’s more like a religious belief, something to do once a week. It’s a habit, a job, there’s a sense of notoriety being seen with Jesus. In fact, if Jesus were taken out of the picture not much would change for Judas.

For Mary, Jesus is everything. Don’t believe me consider that she just poured out the equivalent of 16 bottles of Clive Christian Number 1 at a cost of $37,000. It would have cost pretty close to a year’s wage. Yet it wasn’t a waste but an investment in her trust and life shared with Jesus.

Did you notice last week we had two people with two totally different responses to God’s Love? A younger son who doesn’t get what he deserves and the older son who believes he’s not getting what he deserves either. One  enters into the house while the other remains outside.

Today, two people with two totally different responses to the presence of Jesus. One worships Him and the other views the action as a waste. Next week we’ll see the same theme played out when it comes to Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem.  You can see the pattern.

In our homes, at work, sitting around our dinner tables is this same Jesus and His message is the same message of love and transforming power. He offers the same new life and forgiveness today as He did then. In fact, Jesus is the new thing about which God tells Isaiah. It is true in our individual lives. It is true in the life of congregations like Kenton. It is true for cities and parts of cities like North Portland and it is even true for denominations and nations like the US and Presbyterians.

We can respond to Jesus’ presence as Mary or as Judas. We do it by what we choose to focus our attention on each morning when we get up and throughout the day. We make the choice by the words we use and the attitude we live out in the world around us. It is possible to claim the title Christian and be totally self-absorbed. It is possible to claim to follow Jesus yet be so caught up in our world; its power, promises and programs we actually lose sight of Jesus.

I am coming to believe more and more that we are in the middle of a new reformation. One, which brings about a new thing in the way that church, is done. A worship that is more and more Christ centered. Outreach that takes place via relationships. Evangelism that moves beyond a “sinner’s prayer” and into growing disciples. And a way of governing the Body of Christ that emphasis our togetherness rather than a 1950’s corporate business model.

Mary or Judas? Worship or whining? Honor or complaining? Putting oneself out for Jesus or hanging back and grousing about things. I guess our choice is pretty clear where we want to fall.


[1] Matthew 28:20

[2] Matthew 1:23

[3] Philippians 1:19; Acts 16:7

[4] John 14:6

[5] Matthew 18:20

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