Now, the actual figure itself stood about six feet tall. But because it was elevated up on the eastside of a long rectangular reflecting pool Jesus seemed much larger than life. If you stood in the right place, and looked at your reflection in the water, it looked as if Jesus was embracing you. As you might imagine, it was a magnificent work of art, that quickly became the church’s pride and joy.
Once a year, for Easter, volunteers would draped Jesus with white linen and adorned the edges of the reflecting pool with beautiful and fragrant Easter lilies. At the sunrise service, the congregation gathered around it to worship, always amazed at how the rising sun would make the silhouette of Jesus both blinding and alive.
As the years went on, and the town began to grow and generations changed over, the statue became less prominent, almost invisible. Yet, when people called the church office, the secretary would say, “Just look for the statue of Jesus welcoming you home.”
Still, beautiful as it was, the statue could not stop the effects of time and progress. Smog stains, tree sap, the dirt and grim of modern life could only hide the cracks for so long.
When the homeless claimed the pool as their own personal bath, the church let the water evaporate until the grand reflecting pool was nothing more than a swallow box that collected trash, graffiti, and the occasional rainwater.
Then one day, and sadly no ones exactly when, someone did something terrible. A vandal took a hammer to Jesus, smashing off both hands and part of his right arm.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, the heartbroken members gathered around empty pool to hold a prayer vigil. The only one who seemed to notice their sadness, was the humble face of Jesus that looked down on them.
But those gathered there could not see the grace that still lingered in his smile or the mercy that radiated from his eyes. All they saw were the broken outstretched arms that gave their Lord and Savior the appearance a homeless man seeking alms for himself.
Slowly and mournfully, the church community returned to worship as normal. But something was brewing underneath. There was an air of uneasiness and sadness. And soon a bigger problem began to surface. The statue that once defined the heart and soul of who they were, and how they wanted to be seen in the community, had begun to redefine them.
They began to see themselves as aging, broken, and overlooked by the community at large. No longer did they have the prominence they once had. No longer were people being drawn to their worship. They began to feel like beggars themselves, desperately trying to get the world’s attention to rescue them.
The people did not know what to do anymore. And so they did what they have always done. They formed a committee. Their first order of business was the obvious. And quickly they voted unanimously to hold a fundraiser to repair the statue to its full glory. They were going to save Jesus, no matter the cost.
For the next month, the volunteers spent hour after long hour making the preparations for the fundraiser. They made flyers to help get the word out. They visited the local business and gathered donations for a silent auction. They even convinced a well-known caterer to donate her professional time as a way to draw more people from the community.
Yet a week before the big event, the minister, who had been mostly silent on this issue, stood at the pulpit and said that the fundraiser would not happen and declared that the necessary repairs would not be made. Instead he said, “We will become the hands of Jesus.”
This story is a good reminder that the church is not a building, any more than it is a statue. The church is the people. And if we want the world to notice us, then we must become the centerpiece, God’s pride and joy in our community.
In his letter to the Galatian churches, Paul reminds the people that race, gender, or social status will no longer define or divide God’s people, because we have been united as one holy body through Christ Jesus. Through our baptism, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit and ordained to continue Jesus’ ministry. We cannot forget that just as we rely on God for help, so too does God rely on us.
In his final words to his disciples Jesus said, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to bear the fruits that I have shown you.” As Paul writes, “Through love become slaves to one another.”
Jesus left us with his Spirit of love so we can become the hands that go out into the world carrying the “fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” By these actions our faith will be judged, both by the world and by God.
"...'for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’... "
And so I encourage you, implore you, and beg you from the bottom of my heart, to be the arms and hands love, the visible presence of Jesus Christ our Lord, by serving him and one another with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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