Our church hosted a Holy Week series of "Sacred Encounters" from Thursday to Sunday; in an attempt to "enter the story" as a community of Jesus. Each day was centered around the events of Jesus found in the gospels during His last few days. Through the use of re-imagined liturgy, we encountered and entered the story through: art, music both traditional and contemporary, video, spoken word, poetry, scripture readings, group recitation, hands on contemplative activities, crafts, food and singing. We "encountered Jesus and each other...In the acts of foot washing, communion, candle procession, hammering nails, preparing a breakfast and eating together, serving and taking wine and bread, reciting creeds, mournful hymns, triumphant praise, deep prayer, personal prophecy and humble confession. It was a holy and sacred time...we truly encountered Jesus in profoundly old and new ways...together.But one of the most powerful parts of the weekend for me was the presence of the unexpected guest.
Jesus showed up as a hispanic man, in a black woman's body....At first I saw him sitting on the back pew, a small Hispanic man, obviously a homeless traveler. He was just quietly sitting there with a pleasant smile....just waiting, for something...someone.It was the end of the evening's Good Friday Encounter and I saw him through the various people who were standing around. I pressed through the group and welcomed him, shook his hand and made sure to smile and make him feel wanted (something I learned from my father) You see, I am on a quest to find the hidden kingdom. I know God likes to play hide and seek. He comes unexpectedly, suddenly but oh so secretly...you can often pass by, ignore, forget, disdain or fear Him."Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." -Hebrews 13:2I thought he was an angel...I've seen his kind before. They act so nonchalant, discreet, pass-by-able...but like butterflies...you can start to figure out what draws them; they love to be entertained...served, cared for...but, you just can't control them. They arrive when they want too...you never see them coming, you just discover them present and then they leave. He left that night, better clothed than he arrived...oh, and he left his socks in the bathroom. Angels wear socks, black ones in fact...I didn't know that?
Did you know Angles are hungry, talk to themselves and like two Pepsi's instead of one? I didn't either. I was sitting there eating a feast of asian food prepared by our refugee friends in our community resource center on Sunday afternoon. The place was packed with 95% carmel colored beauties and we were clear on the other side of the room, away from the door. In comes big mama. Bags, coats, hats and a whole lot of black woman to love...you know, the kind that you hug their boobs way before they ever get their arms around you? There she stood, fanagling her way into a room full of people speaking another language. She was looking for someone...and then she found him.We got each other's eyes. She smiled big and had that look of "Oh there he is"...she bumbled on over through, with the little people in her wake. She was completely unfazed, determined and on a mission. "Can I eat something?" she asked. "Of course, do you want to take it with you are sit down and eat with us?" we said.She sat down across from us. After getting a Karen sized serving of everything, times two...she proceeded to eat, drink, talk to her invisible friends, pray and smile and then laugh unexpectedly. The look on Sarah's face, our Ethiopian teenager friend, who was sitting next to her...was priceless. This angel was quite a heavenly manifestation. She ate for awhile and then said she had to catch a bus....of course you do, I thought...all angels ride the bus...and off she went in a huff of mumbles, giggles and a plate with a roll on it. As I sat here this morning...I remembered what I preached yesterday:"Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight."-Lk 24:31In a flash of revelation, I realized we were not visited by Angels...but the Lord." "Come, you, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you invited me in: Naked, and you clothed me..."Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, and fed You? or thirsty, and gave you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and took You in? or naked, and clothed You?"And the King shall answer and say to them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Vanishing Jesus...sometimes He is right in front of you and you don't even realize it, until He is gone. Next time, I am going to grab Him and hug Him like I've always wished I could.But....I imagine, I won't recognize Him again....but maybe I will, I hope so.
(cafe pic: Lena Koller and sketch by Ami)