The Presence of Jesus
By Terry Beamer
“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the door, you will not find him in the chalice.”
-Saint John Chrysostom,
c. 347-409 Archbishop of Constantinople
There are many stories at Haywood Street Congregation. As many as there are people. Everyone has a story. Everyone. Our lived beliefs, relationships, and experiences combine to help reflect who we are, who we become, and who people perceive us to be.
I have a story too. May I share just a bit of it with you?
Life feels hard for many of us today. Discontent and anger simmer just under the surface or they have already exploded into the air we breathe and the space we occupy. They hang heavy on us and dissipate slowly or not at all. The Blame Game appears to be a popular sport seeking the bad guys so we may assign to them the blame for what has befallen us. There must be Someone to call out. To punish. To hate. Someone very unlike us. It must be those Other People. The people we find hard to see as people. The ones we see camping around town or asking for money. They leave a mess everywhere they go, you know. It might be the fault of the Higher-Ups who allow this to happen. Somebody needs to do something! This is no way to live!
Blaming has become contagious and has yet to fix any problems or help anyone. So, where do we find that Peace, Joy, and Love that Jesus promised us? We look for Jesus, for Jesus himself is all of these things. He provides them to us in each other. In relationship with one another. Jesus among us.
Most of my life has been a journey to be aware of the nearness of God in Jesus the Christ. To know him, touch him, and grow ever deeper in relationship with him. Not just through study, reformed theology, and faith tradition, but in reality, where I live and breathe, where I exist.
Enter Haywood Street…. Twelve or so years ago, I came to this congregation for the first time for a Wednesday church service. After about ten minutes, as we were singing a hymn, I burst into tears. I was overcome with emotion fueled by the awareness of God’s tangible presence and grace in this place.
I knew that I was Home. As I looked into the eyes of this great, unwashed congregation, I was totally aware that I belonged because I, too, was in need of a great washing. A great cleansing of my soul filled with fear, anger, judgment, and pride. I needed exactly what everyone around me needed. As I looked around, I saw Jesus looking back at me through the eyes of those the world calls the least, the last, and the lost. (Matthew 25). I saw Jesus in some great disguises—sleeping under a blanket on the sidewalk, sitting on a pew weeping and praying, yelling and cursing, disoriented and sick from drugs, fighting to overcome a mental illness, poor and hungry. Jesus was everywhere. The atmosphere was charged with emotion. With humanity. Surrounding it all was never-ending love, and I was filled to overflowing.
As the pain, fear, and anger of the world increases, so does the hurt of our beloved brothers and sisters. The suffering is real. The need to move closer is real. I still want to be where Jesus is. And Jesus is with his children. His beloved children. And I among them.
May we always recognize Jesus in each other, knowing we are forever in his Presence.
“We’ve got to find ways to get closer to the poor, the neglected, the abused, the excluded, the marginalized because it’s in proximity to these communities that we hear things that we would not otherwise hear; we will see things that we will not otherwise see. There is power when we get proximate, and only then can we have mercy and compassion.”
May it be so.
In the Presence of Jesus with you,