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Manifestations of Christ . . .

IMG00035-20091113-1643 Jesus No Hands

This Epiphany season one image keeps flitting through my mind. I snapped this pic of a statue of Jesus at Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill last fall.

I was there with a group of faculty and students from Luther Seminary sharing the experience of Pray and Break Bread. When I’ve visited churches of the neighborhoods of the Twin Cities I’ve found it interesting to ask this question:

“What does Jesus look like here?”

We got one answer inside from Pastor Gary Drier’s thinking on his feet. We got another answer outside when he used his hands to complete the image of Jesus in the church’s courtyard. (That’s him behind the statue.)

What has stayed with me about that evening and this picture are a number of ironies:

  • a church named “Christ” with a broken Jesus greeting us in the courtyard
  • the whiteness of this image of Jesus in a neighborhood with a shrinking white population
  • the broken body of Christ which needs human hands to be whole again
  • the choice of  “jazz hands” which are such a contrast to the melancholy of the statue
  • wondering where the hands might have gone and who might have taken them

I’ll simply leave you with my same question on this Epiphany evening . . . what does Jesus look like where you are?

Last fall I joined a group of Luther seminary students and faculty a couple of times for “Pray and Break Bread” an experience of praying and eating in neighborhoods of the Twin Cities. The monthy pilgrimages into the city have been initiated and organized by my friend and colleague, Christian Scharen.
When we visit the churches and communities we are invited first to hear what they can tell us about their context, ministry and needs. Then we usually have a chance to ask some questions. I’ve found that one provocative question I like to ask is:
“What does Jesus look like here?”
It is an epiphany question: how is Jesus the Christ manifested in this place, which calls itself Christian and proclaims good news of God’s love in Christ and offers minsitry to the community?
The answers have been to my ears a bit faltering. The pastors who have hosted us have to think hard on their feet about how to respond. Whatever they finally tell us, it seems to me their answers say something about the theology and practice of that particular community. Even the tone and the hesitancy or urgency of the responses says something about the understanding of the church by its leaders.
In November we visited a church in downtown St. Paul. Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill.
I found their story to be emblematic of other downtown congregations. They work at and some times