Thursday, December 15, 2005

Being his presence does not mean fixing everything

My friend Scott lent me a book called, God in the Alley right now and it is very sobering and challenging. It is filled with stories of this pastor Greg Paul seeing and being Jesus in a broken urban context of Toronto. Here is a quote that hit me about Christmas, incarnational ministry and what our community the Open Door is wrestling with. What does it means to be the presence of Jesus to people.
Greg Paul says, "I need to learn how to truly be among people to whom I am sent, as Jesus was among us. The character of my presence needs to be like his. I am sometimes struck by thoughts of hundreds of lepers Jesus did not heal, the thousands of people who died of ridiculous little infections during his lifetime, the blind or lame beggars who missed his passing by a few hundred yards or a few minutes. He healed so few! And I who can heal no one, am reminded that being his presence does not mean fixing everything. Being among people means being in their midst, not outside. It means being with them, not over them. It means not looking away from their agony or humiliation but beholding it, and having the courage to be also wounded by their pain.
When I think about trying to be the presence of Christ in this fashion, it no longer seems benign and faintly condescending. Instead it seems risky, uncomfortable, humbling. Giving some money to a panhandler is something I know I can manage; it can even make me feel good about myself. But embracing him as a brother, literally putting my arms around his smelly, druken, psychotic and possibly bug-ridden person, grappling with the concept that he, too, is the beloved of God, precious and made in his image - well, this provides an unnerving peek into my own soul. It can be even worse if I discover the panhandler is sane, sober and clean. I am not sure I want to recognize the ways in which we are alike... We are both broken, fatally flawed - and immeasurably precious made in God's image. Jesus' coming among us reminds us of both these things."

How do we become the presence of Jesus in this manner?


BPC said...

i believe that you have touched on the paradox of the last days when some people say "Lord, Lord when didn't we this or that" and Jesus says, "away from me, i never knew you."

you probably remember the song and acronym WWJD. well i believe that the real acronym should be DWJD, following the scripture that says that we should...DO WHAT JESUS DID.
i am starting a new campaign for DWJD and am having a song written for this.

too often we are stuck in the passive mode (ie. wwjd ??) in stead of proactive: do

it is God who sends and God who calls...remember though, how often the apostles shook the dust off their feet to those who were not interested...and moved on.

and yet God in his mercy is waiting for the number of gentiles to come in...before Jesus comes in all his glory.

in fear & trembling, faith & hope...with love,


John said...

Wow, I think I need to get my hands on that book after you!

How about an even more powerful change, WIJD - What Is Jesus Doing. It's all good to know what Jesus did and try to do the same. It's good to actively do what Jesus did in his time. But the question I've been asked and I now constantly am asking myself is "do I really believe Jesus is still working today, or is it all up to me?" Do we just think that we are to carry on the work of Jesus, remembering what he did, and doing our best to do the same? Or do we believe that Jesus goes before us, loving and embracing the beggar before we even get there? Incarnational ministry is putting skin on the action of Jesus in the present tense.

So where is Jesus working? That's where I want to be.

terry said...

bj -

merry christmas to you. thanks for sharing the journey with me and i look forward to the days of '06 with great expeectation and anticipation. God is on the move; the waters are rising; and as they say, "never swim alone."

blessings - terry

ty said...


I've found, the reality of the gospel is continually shocking, and even paralyzing sometimes, as God slowly reveals himself to us. It seems so obvious in hindsight, perhaps like the parables after they're explained. The world is full of Christians who are doing, quietly responding, following, and weeping at the depth of the needless tradgedy, while, bizzarly, rejoicing at the incredible glory. I'm not sure the world needs more Christian revolutionaries with all the right answers to yesterdays and tommorrows problems, perhaps we simply need to spend more time being an incarnational presence today, thursday, 1/5, rather than planning to be one tommorrow. Perhaps for tommorrow's plans we simply need pray for more harvesters.