Over the years of leading classes and small groups, I've discovered the question, "Where did you see God at work this week?" stymies and silences people very quickly. You'd have thought I'd asked, "Who wants to pray?"
We - mainline Christians who've attended a church much of our lives - are used to thinking of encounters with God or Jesus either happening in the church building or while encountering scripture. In fact, we - mainline Christians who've attended a church much of our lives - kind of insist on it. For the thought of a Risen Savior running loose in our world is as threatening today as it was nearly 2000 years ago. Keeping Jesus in worship - worship we're comfortable with, music we know, orders of service that don't change or surprise us, if you please - ensures we won't encounter him at our workplaces, schools or homes where his presence and ethics may actually make a difference. In contrast, I've found, in speaking with people who are new to the church or perhaps not even in a church, that they are able to see God at work much more easily. In Leonard Sweet's recent book, Nudge, readers are challenged to awaken themselves to the God and Savior who are already here. Thinking we "carry Christ" into the world is, as my mother used to say, like carrying coal to Newcastle.
Have you seen Jesus? Jesus was in Tuscon. You saw him in the form of a young man shielding and nursing a wounded politician; in the form of a federal judge shielding a stranger; in the form of a husband giving his life for the love of his life. I see Jesus every month in the form of a middle-aged woman who, following worship, carries a picket sign and collars folks saying, "Follow me, and I will make you servers of breakfast at Bean's Cafe" (a meal site for homeless and poor in Anchorage). I see Jesus standing at busy intersections selling baleen or begging; begging for us to be a better people than we are. I'll stop here because seeing Jesus is more fun if you discover him yourself. The last thing you want when looking at a "Where's Waldo" book is some know-it-all looking over your shoulder and pointing him out before you've had a chance to look on your own.
But, at the risk of being that obnoxious know-it-all, allow me to make one suggestion: the best place to start is the mirror. In another book by Leonard Sweet, So Beautiful, he gives us his favorite benediction to end a worship service:
"Want to follow Jesus? Leave the church. Get out of the church. Leave. I mean it. Right now. Get out of here. Scram. Now. Out of here. Did you hear me?...Leave this church. Now! Jesus says, 'Go Do Me.' Go be Jesus" (p. 60).Just as the keys we've been looking for have been in our own hands all along, the Jesus we - and so many - have been yearning for is capable of being seen in our own lives at any moment.