Ben is three years old, and he is standing on his chair across the table from me during a recent church dinner. There’s not a whole lot of food going in to his wiry, little body…but he is enthusiastically sharing just about every thought or idea that comes into his mind.
“Hey, Jesus! Guess what!” He is talking to me.
His parents, trying to convince him to take another bite of hot dog, are also reminding him that the person he is addressing is Pr. David…not Jesus. Wanting to support their efforts at proper identity, I am also quick to point out that, while I know Jesus well, I am not Jesus.
But Ben is not easily persuaded. He has important observations about his life to share. And sharing them with Jesus, having hot dogs with Jesus, going to see the Jesus who loves him…all of this works in his world very nicely.
Two ideas spring to mind.
First: Ben helps me understand what Jesus is trying to convey to his disciples when he suggests to them that entry into the kingdom of God is impossible for those who cannot receive it like a little child. In his innocence and enthusiasm, Ben reminds me how marvelous it is to stand in unencumbered trust before the One who loves us so deeply. I think we all long for just such authentic and healing relationship.
Second: I’m beginning to wonder how good an idea it is to quickly correct Ben’s “mis-identification.” After all, when Ben sees me, should he not be seeing Jesus? Indeed, when anyone sees me or sees the Church (either as individual believers or the body corporate), should they not be seeing Jesus? Are we not called and sent to be (as Luther reminds us) Christ to one another and the world?
Ben’s very faithful parents (bless them!) have rightly taught him to be on the lookout for the Lord who loves him. If Ben sees that in me, it is both an awe-full responsibility and a deep, deep privilege. If the world sees that in us…in this rag-tag collection of broken believers called to be Christ’s body in the world…then perhaps we are, by grace, finally being the Church we are meant to be.
Original 15Oct2012; re-post