USA Today ran this story a few days ago about a shadow in a church in New Orleans that some are claiming resembles the face of Jesus.
Apparently, like Peter Pan, Jesus has lost his shadow.
Now, we obviously see this sort of thing all the time. Despite the fact that none of us know what Jesus’ face actually looked like, we have the propensity of seeing him in everything from a grilled cheese sandwich, to tree bark, or even a potato chip.
While it would be easy to simply ridicule these alleged sightings, this one in particular got me to thinking a little bit.
Why is it that we see or, perhaps more accurately, want to see Jesus everywhere and in everything?
Perhaps it’s because like Thomas we doubt what we cannot physically see or touch. Or perhaps our desire to be in the presence of Jesus is so strong and the opportunity to be in that presence so often lacking, that we project Jesus onto inanimate objects in order to fill this deep seeded need to be in his presence….
….which got me to think again.
Do you ever notice that sightings of Jesus almost never involve people?
I’m not talking about walking down the street, noticing a guy with long hair and a beard who’s wearing sandals, and then exclaiming “Hey, that guy looks like Jesus!”
I mean, you almost never hear an uproar over a person or group of people who are so incarnating the love, grace, forgiveness, and fellowship of Jesus that the people in their community flock in droves to be near them the way so many do when Jesus supposedly appears on a potato chip.
Clearly there have been countless people who have claimed to be the Messiah over the years; people like David Koresh, Jim Jones, or that guy in Australia who claims to be the reincarnated Jesus.
That’s not the type of incarnated Jesus sightings I’m thinking about.
I’m talking about people like Mother Theresa, Francis of Assisi, Dorthy Day, or Benedict of Nursia. People who so embodied the love and grace of Jesus that people around them couldn’t help but exclaim “Hey, that looks a lot like Jesus” and then rushed to be by their side so that, in a way, they can be in the presence of Jesus. These saints of the church weren’t super heroes. They simply took seriously the idea that “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ that lives within me.”
You just don’t see that much anymore.
It’s like Jesus has lost his shadow.
When we hide our devotion to Jesus safely away in the recesses of our hearts where we can’t be scorned or ridiculed by our non-believing friends or when we relegate our faith to the realm of intellectual ascent, we cover up that light which was meant to shine upon the hilltop and are no longer capable of reflecting the Jesus we profess to love so much to a world which so desperately needs him.
So, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise then that people are so eager and willing to see Jesus in a potato chip or a grilled cheese sandwich. After all, where else can they go to be in his presence if the people who are supposed to be casting his shadow to the world refuse to do so out laziness, apathy, selfishness, or fear of scorn and ridicule?
Jesus has lost his shadow. If we as the church are to be the reflection of Christ we claim to be, then we must cast aside our false humility, drive away our fear of ridicule, and begin incarnating the love and grace of Jesus in such a radical way that the world cannot held but exclaim “Hey, that looks a lot like Jesus!”
Maybe then, people will no longer have to look for Jesus in potato chips, grilled cheese sandwiches, or the shadow cast by a church’s chandelier.
Grace and peace,