Two Encounters With Jesus
† Jesus, Son, Saviour †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause you to recognize Him, and bring to Him those who need to be made whole.
The Challenge to Evangelism?
In twenty years of ministry, one of the hardest things to see develop in a church is the attitude that we exist and serve to bring others to Christ. Some call this being missional, some call it recognizing our apostolate.
You see, each of us is sent by God, to live where we are, and to reflect the love of God to those who are broken and so desperately need His touch upon their lives.
The challenge is not in learning what to say, most of us have been taught how to explain our faith. I mean how many of us can say the Lord’s Prayer and the apostles’ creed without looking at the bulletin?
We know the teachings, the basic doctrine.
So what do we need? What will change us into being a church that reveals to people the Jesus who will make them whole?
The key to Concordia, or any other church, becoming an evangelistic church, is simple. We need to know how to act when we encounter Jesus.
For when our souls learn to recognize Jesus, when our hearts know we dwell in His presence, the intuitive thing to do will be to drag people to Jesus, to the places where we know they will encounter them.
In today’s gospel, there are three encounters with Jesus. Two will show us how we can react to seeing Him. And the third, well, we will get to it later.
Seeing Him, amazed and confused!
The first way people reacted to Jesus is seen in the boat. The apostles, tired and weary, still overwhelmed by their first mission trip, and the feeding of thousands, see Jesus.
They see him, the word there is from where we get “identify.” Picture someone routinely checking driver’s licenses, and then realizing the person in front of them is someone famous. This is how they reacted, and their hearts, confused by all of life, were described as too petrified to take it all in. We all get that way sometimes, as life throws a few curves at us. As we get overwhelmed, as we are struggling with what is going on, or with the storms in our lives.
The apostles were there, “hey” its Jesus. Oh no! It’s beyond natural! It’s something supernatural! It’s not something normal.
Uhm, yeah Peter and James and John. It’s Jesus! What did you expect from Him, if not the supernatural?
We don’t recognize Jesus all that well at times, or the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We struggle to see Him during the hard times, and we don’t completely get what God is up too when we see the miraculous happen.
Our hearts are petrified, they are too hard to take it all in. But can we change?
Knowing Him – and dragging people in bed to Him
The second group was the group that encountered Jesus when He got out of the boat. These people just didn’t identify Jesus, the Greek indicates they knew Him, they deeply knew Him, who He was, and what it meant for Him to be there.
Whereas the Apostles went crazy with fear, these people went crazy bringing every person they could find that was broken. They ran around, grabbing people on mattresses and carrying them, they even just knew that if they could encounter Jesus, even just touching the edge of their robes, it would change everything….
And it did.
They encountered Him in the everyday mess of life. Though they had no clue about the cross, or the grave, the resurrection, they were sure He was a messenger from God, and they knew he would do the supernatural. So they brought the broken, the needy, almost without thinking about it!
Imagine lying there on your bed, some guys storm in, and the next thing you know, you are being dragged to meet Jesus, no explanation given. As you encounter Jesus, something more occurs than just being healed. You are made holy, you are saved. You are made right, perfect.
That’s what happens when you reveal the love of God to someone, that is what happens when Jesus is revealed In your life, what occurs when you encounter Him.
So How? Close Encounter of the Third Kind
So how do we go from the first reaction to reacting like the evangelists in the second group of people? How do we go from going crazy because of trauma and stress, to being crazy trying to get people to come to Jesus? What hope is there for those of us who are overwhelmed, whose hearts are too hard to take it all in?
Because even the holiest and most devout of us can get overwhelmed by life.
I did this week, as the prayer list seemed to explode with people in need.
It isn’t within me to remember 24/7 that God is here, actively working in our lives, actively working through our lives. I get too distracted, I get too overwhelmed by the storm, I get too frustrated by the work that God sent me to do.
So how do we keep centered on Jesus? How do we stay aware of His presence in life?
One pastor wrote it this way,
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering. (Pope Francis)
Remember where the disciples were heading with Jesus when they came back from their first mission trip? When they took off and found people chasing them on the shore, and then Jesus fed them?
They were heading off to a place to be with Jesus, to find time to pray, to find time for that personal encounter with God. To know Him enough to recognize Him.
Jesus did this, He went away for a time to talk to the Father, that was why He had to chase the boat, and if it is a blessing for Him, it is necessary for us.
Not just to please God, though it does. I need it, and you need it too. We need to be able to recognize God’s presence in our lives, to expect it, and the healing and peace that He brings. For that presence ties out theology to life, it makes what we say more than words.
To know Him, to encounter Him in prayer, and in the sacraments, they help us to now He is there. And so this week, God blessed me by helping me encounter Him more, as people took time out, and we shared in the Lord’s Supper together. Then when the storms hit, we know to look for Him, to expect His presence.
For from there, recognizing God at work is easier, knowing He is here, and He will make us whole is easier. For with Him revealed, we are still, and we know He is indeed God. And that He keeps us, our hearts and minds safe in Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness 2 that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. Romans 9:1-3 (NAB)
436 Experience, great knowledge of the world, being able to read between the lines, an exaggerated sharpness, a critical spirit… All those things, in your business and social relations, have led you too far, to such an extent that you have become a bit cynical. All that “excessive realism”, which is a lack of supernatural spirit, has even invaded your interior life. Through failing to be simple, you have become at times cold and unfeeling. (1)
Most of realize that the great commandments are to love God with everything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Though we all struggle with this, I sometimes wonder if we know what it means to love them. It’s not just giving them a hug as we greet them during the peace, Or giving them a high five when we see them, hearing that they made a hole in one. It even goes beyond cooking a meal for them when they are recovering from a hospital stay, or helping them when they are short of cash. Loving goes a lot more. Too often, St. Josemaria has it right, the very lives we live, the successes we have in our “real world” leave us cold, and unfeeling. To be honest, sometimes we are un-loving. This Catholic priest/pastor has it right – our realism leaves us dried out spiritually.
But we are called to love, to love supernaturally, and we have a great example,
Do we feel like St Paul does, when he writes to the Romans, explaining that he desires that he would be able to give up his life, his eternal life, be completely separated from Christ, that those who were His brothers could know Jesus.
Two things about this passage need to be noted
First, what Paul wants for his people more than anything is that they would know Christ, that the power of His resurrection would be theirs, that they would walk with God, as they (and all of us) are meant to do. Nothing else matches that priority. For nothing, absolutely nothing, in life compares to the peace we have, knowing God lives in us, This love of God which compels us to love in return, the depth of that love, the height, the width and the breadth – to even glimpse of God’s love for us, leaves us in awe.
He wants that experience for them more than anything, and truly loving someone else means not just wanting them to have good, but to have the best.
Which leads us to the second thing – that he desires this so much for them, that he would desire this so much, that he is willing to give up his own place in Christ, if it meant that they would be there. He won’t just die for them, he would be willing to give all up for them. Including eternity, including Christ. (yes I know, and Paul knows that this is impossible… ) Still his desire that they know God, intimately relate and communicate and love God, he is willing to sacrifice all for that to happen. Are we? Can we trust in God to the point where God’s desire becomes more and more the dominant desire in us? Can we see our families, our neighbor’s need, their brokenness, their desperation to be loved completely, to be freed from guilt and shame, to be able not to be anxious or fear, to live in peace? Would we die on a spiritual grenade for them? Would we endure some discomfort? Would we confront them in love, showing them their need for Him?
Love you neighbor, Jesus said……….
Here is an example.
Lord, pour out your mercy on Your people. AMEn!..
Oh…. One last though in passing….Jesus also said love your enemies…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1944-1947). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.