Thursday 1 November - Licensing of Rosie Addis - Markus Duenzkofer

I have seen Jesus. I have met him in the flesh.

Over 20 years ago in the swimming pool at the YMCA in Evanston, Illinois.

He didn’t look at all how I had imagined him as he stood there, showering off the chlorine. He was much older than I had expected, maybe 70, 75 years old. His hair had greyed as was respectable for his age. He was about 5’8”, 5’9”, but it was hard to tell: he was hunched over a wee bit. He had his eyes closed as the soap was running down his face. His hands were large enough to provide a firm grip. At least that’s what I imagined.

I will never forget his face. It was not a beautiful face. But it wasn’t ugly either. And there were these scars, not very visible, but they were there, intermingled with the wrinkles that bore more than the marks of age.

And his face was black.

And I wondered, what he in his African-American life must have experienced: segregation, exclusion, racism. I wonder if he marched alongside Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr, his prophets proclaiming another reality, another, more beautiful kingdom.
He looked up from the shower and saw me looking at him. I smiled. He smiled back.

And this is when I recognised him: His was the face that bore the wounds of injustice, and yet his was the face that also stood up to injustice and oppression, speaking truth to power thus fulfilling what the Mother of God, his mother, had sung: He will throw down the mighty from their thrones.

I have seen Jesus. I have met him in the flesh.

Yes, I met him again. Around the same time actually. However, it was in a place far, far removed from the encounter at the YMCA.

I was a steward at the dreadful 1998 Lambeth conference, which not so much by its resolutions, but by its spirit cemented exclusion, disunion, and strife. See, what is not know very widely is this: We stewards almost walked off our job half way through the conference. We just had had enough with the privileged elitism of some bishops. They had treated us like serfs. They had forgotten that we were united in following and serving the one Lord, were united as members of the one Body of Jesus the Christ. St Paul would have had a field day! The community of Corinth all over again: status counted more than the waters of baptism. And I haven’t even mentioned the unbecoming power games that led to resolution 1.10…

Many stewards were frustrated, ready to throw it all in: the conference, the church, maybe even their faith. Why would anyone want to be a member of such a horrendous institution? Church folks often do not understand the pain and horror we inflict on others, leading to disgust not just among those directly affected.

Yes, it was not in a happy place, and I wasn’t in a happy place either.

And this is when I saw Jesus.

Quite remarkably, he was on his hands and knees, crawling on the lawn: among bishops, moderators, priests, deacons, and ministers. His sight was disturbing, upsetting, challenging, unpleasant, embarrassing…

He was a mentally upset women, who had found her way into the mix of prelates at Canterbury.

I will never find out what had caused her break-down. But I will never forget how the church so thoroughly ignored her, overlooked Jesus – something we so often do…

We still cannot seem to deal with mental health issues. And we still are more concerned with our own status and power than with compassion and openness to discover Jesus in the least of our sisters and brothers.

I have seen Jesus. I have met him in the flesh.

Just a few weeks ago. In a Cornish church, now served by Rosie’s predecessor. Yes, I saw him there. Or better, I read about him. On a war memorial commemorating the fallen of the first World War. What was so utterly surprising, was that the plaque in the church in Padstow called upon us to not forget those who lost their lives between 1914 and 1919.

Hang on!

1919?

Didn’t the war finish in 1918?

And this is when I recognised him. I recognised his face in those unnumbered, faceless dead of not just the Great War. I recognised him in the faces of all those afflicted by the horrors of our strife with each other. And I recognised him in all those, who cry out against our waring madness, because they are affected for years and decades to come, even after armistice has been declared.  

I have seen Jesus. I have met him in the flesh.

Just a few months ago, I heard his voice. In Tranent. Who ever said: “Can any good thing come from East Lothian?” It was at a funeral service in the local Church of Scotland parish. A mother and grandmother had died. And we were there to bid farewell to her and to support those, who were mourning.

At one point the minister got up and read a personal tribute by the daughter of the deceased. It was a beautiful and heartfelt tribute. And it was so disarmingly honest.

And this is when I recognised him. Or better: This is when I recognised his voice.

In the midst of death we heard about how his victory over death continues to offer us hope in the face of fear, in the face of our failure, and in the face of that ultimate mystery, which we will all have to face one day. We heard about his invitation to be reconciled in his name with his Father, who has loved each and every one of us into being. This was a not so subtle call, especially for those of us of a more progressive and liberal persuasion, to never forget to base all that we do and all that we are in worship of and in submission to our triune God and his self-revelation in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

And we also heard about how we need to be reconciled with one another in him – even when it is hard work, even when honest truth is not easy to name or find, even when there has been a history of difficulty in relationship. We all fail, we heard him say that, too. But we all are given chance upon chance to reach out to him, and to reach out to one another. Yes, on that day in the Scottish summer, we heard about reconciliation, Jesus’ offer of reconciliation, which is so dear to his heart.

Today we celebrate the feat of All Saints. Saints are those children of God, who incarnate God over and over again. In the saints we can see, meet, and discover the face of Christ – as surprising and challenging as it might be. In the saints God’s self-revelation becomes real – inviting us to an ever deeper, more intimate relationship with the One, who loved us into being, who became one of us born of our sister Mary, and who continues to breathe life among us in unimaginable ways. And at times this is hard work as we discover how our ego continues building barriers to keep out God’s love, to keep away our neighbour, to ignore the pains of creation, and to avoid the beauty that God created for each and every one of us.

I believe that priest are called in a particular way to join God in tearing down those barriers and to reveal how Christ is revealed over and over again in the multitude of his saints.

Rosie today will join us here at St John’s as Associate Rector to continue this work among us.

And so Rosie,

Be among us to remind us of Christ’s face in those oppressed and marginalised, those hurting and in pain.

Be among us to lead us to discover Christ’s presence even in those, who are difficult and embarrassing.

Be among us to reveal how Christ overcomes our ignorance, status, privilege, complacency, fear, and how he overcomes our death.

Be among us to join us to Christ’s work in establishing his Kingdom of Justice and Peace.

Be among us to invite us to reconcile in Christ with God and with one another, to ask for forgiveness of our sins, and to celebrate with gusto the joy of the Gospel.

Finally, be among us as you, so that we may discover Christ in you and with you.

Amen.