I'd Rather Have Jesus

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I'd Rather Have Jesus

"I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold..." I don't even know the song that well, but I know that line. Of course, it's referring to the scene in Acts when Peter tells a lame man, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

Who wouldn't rather have Jesus? Today we celebrated the Ascension, and I can just imagine the disciples standing there thinking, "Oh, no, not again!" They stood there long enough that two angels had to come and remind them of what Jesus had just said. Given their track record, though, I'm sure hearing that Jesus would come again in the same way he left didn't make much of an impression, and Jesus' promise that they would receive the Holy Spirit was probably just plain baffling.

I'd rather have Jesus.

Think of how easy it was in the good old days, when all we had to do each day was get up, find Jesus wherever he was praying in the early morning, and wait for him to start walking. Or maybe he would stay in one place and teach, or maybe he would go to worship, or maybe he would heal someone. Whatever the day turned out to be, all we had to do was keep our eyes on Jesus and let him do the work.

True, we had to keep renewing the commitment to follow him. That wasn't always easy. Sometimes he was chased out of town, and that meant we were chased out of town, too. Sometimes he upset the authorities, which meant we were in trouble, too. Sometimes he said strange things and did even stranger things (whoever heard of talking to a Samaritan woman by yourself!), but if we mostly let those things wash over us and focus on the journey, we could power through.

Now, when Jesus sent us out in pairs, that was rough. He said it was our work to go and heal, to preach Good News and to proclaim God's Kingdom, but he was the professional. Still, we went, and it was okay, even great, but it was better to make it back to Jesus and fall in behind him again.

I'd rather have Jesus.

When he was arrested, then condemned, then killed, we thought that was it. Our following was done, and there was no way we were going to risk ourselves going out into those dangerous streets and speaking to those unknown people the way he did.

I'd rather have Jesus.

And then the world was turned upside down! We got Jesus back! No more hard decisions, no more hiding behind locked doors, the streets were ours again.

But not for long. Then there was the ascension. What was that all about? He had just come back to us, shown us that he was physically present again, and then he leaves? No matter what he said about power from on high and the Holy Spirit, no matter what those angels said, nothing could be better than following Jesus while he traveled the world.

I'd rather have Jesus.

What were those days like for the disciples, between the Ascension and Pentecost? We know that they prayed together, ate together, and talked together. We know they picked new leadership, so there was some sense in a continuing purpose. We know that they expected something to happen, sometime, somehow, because Jesus had made a promise.

I'm sure they would have rather had Jesus.

In many ways, I think we're in this in-between time. It's not the good old days anymore, and it hasn't been for a while. Following Jesus isn't as obvious and straightforward as we once thought, and it's not the chosen way of life for most of the people around us either. There is a longing in our congregations for the way things "used to be," but we know deep down that those days are past.

Jesus promise to be with us still stands, though. We are still told that we will be clothed with power from on high, that we will receive the Holy Spirit. We are still sent out to make disciples and share God's love and Good News. Like the disciples though, in the days after the Ascension, I think we're not entirely sure what that means, what that will look like, what that will require of us.

We'd definitely rather have Jesus.

It was after Pentecost that Peter understood that he did have Jesus. He had the teachings of Jesus and the amazing example of Jesus. When he spoke in the name of Jesus, he spoke with power and authority. When he extended the love of Jesus that he himself had received, he did so with the hands of Jesus.

In fact, because Jesus had ascended, because the Holy Spirit had come, a rag-tag group of often bewildered followers became leaders and teachers, healers and baptizers. Because they no longer had Jesus, they now had the Christ and they became the physical manifestation of his body.

I believe it's our turn. It's our turn to gather and pray, to share meals and conversation together, to identify new leaders and new ways of being faithful. I believe that the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to stop yearning after Jesus, and start living as disciples of Christ. I believe that God is already beginning to do a new thing among us, in us if we stop running away, and that we are invited to be part of this new thing that is unfolding. I believe our own Pentecost is upon us, if we will only look up and see the tongues of fire coming.

So I guess I wouldn't rather have Jesus, not if it means living behind closed doors, in narrow rooms, waiting for the end to come. I'd rather have the body of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the creating work of our amazing God.

What about you? What would you rather have?

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