From the very beginning of the movement, followers of Jesus have been sharing their experiences of him and sending letters to encourage one another. “Epistles” was the word the tradition used, and the apostle Paul, of course, was one of the great epistle writers. His students and co-workers, in fact, would later write epistles, using “Paul’s” name, and it wasn’t thought of as plagiarism or copyright infringement, it was just keeping the energy and the fire going.
This morning we have an “epistle” from one of our church members who has moved away but was an important part of our church’s ministry while she and her family lived here. Janice Campbell was our Ministries Coordinator for a year, back a few years when we first tried out that position. She and her husband Ty and son Quincy now live in Virginia, but keep in touch through the wonders of the internet.
It is through that medium that Janice’s epistle comes to us today. When I read it, I thought immediately that this was a message that would be wonderful to hear on this World Communion Sunday–
The Face of Jesus
Recently I have been pondering how we usually celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And by “we”, I mean the Protestant church in general with the little cups or little pieces of bread. How we stand in line, taking turns. It’s all very polite. We’re all very solemn and respectful.
I just can’t stand it. It drives me crazy.
I’m thinking of the movie of Charles Dickinson’s, “The Christmas Carol”, the one with George C. Scott. When the Ghost of Christmas Present shows up, he’s like a huge Viking having a feast. And the feast is one of total Abundance. There’s food everywhere. And when he drinks wine from his goblet, it rolls down his chin. Very messy. But so full of life, it takes my breath away just to think of it. That’s how I want to celebrate.
By the way, Big J and the Boys were celebrating the Passover meal. When we celebrate the “Last Supper”, we say, “In remembrance of me.” When I’m remembering Jesus, I can’t be polite and solemn. I have to feel the gusto, the exuberance. And I think Jesus didn’t mean for us to only remember him at this “Lord’s Supper”. I think he meant to think of him constantly, all the time, whenever we eat, whenever we drink, whenever we breathe.
OK. This brings me to last week. I was having a glass of wine, or two. And I was thinking of all this and I decided to dip bread into the wine as my own little form of Communion. And when I did, when I looked up, there was the face of Jesus. An alive face. I could see his head. No body. Just the head. It sounds weird but it didn’t seem so at the time. It was like looking into a different dimension. Seeing a live person.
He was gorgeous. Dark hair, dark beard. I hadn’t known he was so dynamic, so charismatic. I can see how everyone who saw him was drawn to him. No one could resist him. Even his enemies could not resist him, that’s why they hated him so.
He was so vivacious. And he was the personification of living in the present. He had no fear, no judgment. Just an incredible compassion and understanding. He was not particularly humble. That was not an issue.
I had never seen that face before. And I’ve never come close to seeing anyone so full of life. It wasn’t like he appreciated life or that he was in awe. It was like he breathed in life with every breath. He was in love with life. He reveled in it…
I do think it was really him. And “Jesus” is the perfect name for him. I have the feeling he had become the quintessential of himself. If we are to be like him, I sure have a hell of a long way to go.
I’ve taken time to consider the face I saw…and what I see in the face. As a portrait artist, I’m experienced in detecting personalities from just looking at faces. And there are some amazing characteristics in his face.
I’ve noticed that in writing about this, my verb tense changes back in forth from past to present within the same sentence; which is a no-no for writers. You are supposed to maintain the same verb tense throughout the entire paragraph. But it occurs to me, that this experience has made me aware of Jesus being in the past and in the present at the same time. What I saw, is what I continue to see. I saw him in the past, but he is in the present as well. He transcends time.
When I said he had become the quintessential Jesus, what I saw was that the Christ was fully manifested within him, within the person of Jesus. And that is what caused him to be the fully evolved Jesus. And that is how we are to be like him. Not like Jesus, but like the fully evolved us; with the Christ fully manifested within us. And that will make me the quintessential Janice. Not Jesus. Not Abraham. Not Moses. But Janice.
There was no part of Jesus that was not fully evolved. No more “learning experiences”. He was complete. Perfected.
I mentioned earlier that there was no fear. That’s true. I’ve never come upon this in anyone before. Not a smidgen of fear anywhere in him. Makes me remember, “Perfect love casts out fear.” That’s true. That is what he had become.
When I say he loved life, he lived life like how little children live life. Not only completely in the moment, but he embraced everything he experienced. No holding back. He jumped into each experience whole heartedly. No judgment on if it was positive or negative. It didn’t matter. It was life. I’m thinking that is how he approached the cross, he even embraced that experience. He embraced each of life’s experiences simply because it was part of being alive, even dying. He shied away from nothing. He feared nothing.
Because of this, little kids and little puppies ran to him, knocking him over. They laughed together and rolled in the grass together. You know how they say you can judge a person by how little kids or how dogs react to them? He was totally approachable.
And he was connected. You know how there are times when you feel connected to nature? Maybe during a walk in the woods or at the ocean? He was like that all the time. Maybe that is how he could calm the sea…he just asked and the sea was happy to comply.
People felt this connection and felt his connection with them. When he looked into your face, you knew that he truly saw you, saw who you are and loved you. There was no need for you to clean up or become a better person. He loves you truly, deeply right now exactly as you are in this moment. Amazing.
May we taste this sweetness, drink in this overflowing life, and live in this love as we share this meal together. So may we be fully alive, to the glory of God forever. Amen.