Today a friend and I were working in one of the classrooms at church. After several hours of working together, she looked up and said “Wow…I really like random Jesus.”
Actually, she was referring to the décor in the room, which was traditional Sunday School décor: a poster advertising an event that happened over a week ago; a map of the world in Biblical times; lots of chairs stacked against the wall; a whiteboard; and the word “Jesus” spelled out in shiny cardboard letters above the window.
Random Jesus, indeed.
The funny thing is that my first thought when she said that was “I really like random Jesus too!” And I mean that.
I was standing in the parking lot talking to a friend who is a colleague after a meeting this week. As we walked towards our cars, I realized that she had a new vehicle and commented on that…only to have her burst into tears. The only reason she has new vehicle is because her son was in a horrible car accident that totaled his car and took the life of his girlfriend Ashley. After many months of healing and grieving, life had to return to normal and that meant her son needed a car to get to school and work, so my friend gave her son her car because he couldn’t afford a new one. She and her husband bought a new vehicle…and every time she drives it she is reminded that Ashley is gone and her family will forever grieve her loss. Every time she sees her new car she is reminded that her son was badly injured and easily could have died, leaving my friend and her husband to grieve that loss for the rest of their lives. We stood in the parking lot crying and admitting that tragedies like this take a long time to stop hurting, and then we prayed. We blessed Ashley and her family. We blessed my friend’s son and his healing. And then we prayed God’s blessings upon my friend, her ministry, and her car. I have never prayed blessings onto a car before, but it sure felt like the right thing to do at that moment.
I found myself praying again this morning, getting ready for a meeting. I got a call from Joe who didn’t have good news to share. The cancer is back and it doesn’t make sense because things were going so well until now. All I could do was listen to the bad news and then sit alone and pray that God would do the same miracle this time that God did for us when the cancer was first diagnosed. Not long ago, Joe told me that he has stopped praying for himself and has chosen to pray that God will answer the prayers of everyone who prays for him simply so that they will know that God hears them, loves them, and answers their prayers…and so this morning I prayed for everyone who was praying for Joe, asking God to strengthen their faith and show them that their prayers are effective.
Shortly after I took that call, I met with two people from my church, Beth and Troy, so that we could prepare the cardboard testimonies for this coming Sunday. I thought it might be a good idea to have some folks help me get the signs all lettered and prepared…legible handwriting is a gift many of us do not possess…and then we could photograph the testimonies so they can be projected on the screens during worship. As we worked we told the stories of how we became Methodist, how we all came to worship at our particular church, and how our faith histories formed us. After Troy left to help his girlfriend welcome a brand new grandbaby, Beth and I continued discussing our own personal challenges, especially the challenges we have with our kids and our jobs. We unloaded our hearts and our worries and all of our fears onto one another. It’s always an anxious thing to talk about those places where things aren’t going smoothly, those places where you feel like you are falling short or should be doing better. We spent a lot of time looking at what we were working on instead of looking at each other because it was hard to say the words we had to say. Still, it was really good to speak our peace and finally get things off of our chest knowing that we could trust each other; knowing that we were speaking with someone who would listen and not judge; knowing that we were with someone who wouldn’t minimize the struggle or the fear or the pain. Friends like this are truly friends in Christ and they are priceless!
Random Jesus. This is Random Jesus. Those amazing moments when Jesus pops up unannounced and unexpected in the middle of things to make the mundane holy, to create sacred space in the middle of nowhere, to consecrate words and emotions and tears.
One friend sharing her grief.
One friend sharing bad news.
Three friends sharing the story of how they got here.
Two friends sharing their fears and their failures and all the places where they don’t feel like they stand on solid ground.
This is where Jesus shows up and sits with us and gives us ease and peace where formerly only fear and pain existed. This is how Jesus begins the healing and promises us that we don’t have to do anything alone, and then proves that by providing people to be with us, hear us, sit with us, and walk our journeys with us. Jesus—his life, his death, and his resurrection—are the promise that we will never have to walk this difficult journey alone, ever, because God likes to show up in flesh.
Blessing a car.
Finding the strength to move forward in the face of death.
Knowing that you are exactly where God wants you to be.
Realizing that we are not enough but we are more than enough through Christ who strengthens us.
I really, really like that guy!!