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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Where Does Jesus Live?

Date: 02/06/2005

Feast: Trans of the Lord

James McTyre

Church: LHPC

Bible text: Matt. 17:1-9

Theme: Divine Presence

A couple of Sundays ago, we read scripture where one of the disciples asked Jesus, “Where do you live?”

And Jesus said, “Come and see.”

Again, this Sunday, the question of where Jesus lives comes up.

Where does Jesus live?

Does Jesus live in our world? Or do we live in his? Or both?

The disciples thought they knew Jesus.

Jesus was their teacher. Jesus was their friend. Jesus was a pretty amazing person.

But, in their eyes, he was a person. Period.

You knock on Jesus’ door, you know who’s going to answer.

You know what he’s going to look like, you know pretty much what he’s going to say.

At least, that’s what the disciples thought.

And then, one day on a mountaintop, away from home (or what appeared to be home), Jesus’ home broke through, into this world.

Jesus came into the world, and he was so big, he was so great, that every now and then this worldly home (even his own body) simply couldn’t contain him.

On the day of the mountaintop transfiguration, the Jesus of God’s heavenly world broke out.

Jesus who was the fulfillment of God’s plan shined.

And… it freaked the disciples out. Not surprising.

Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

But no.

The transfiguration of Jesus wasn’t about building him a home.

It’s about us, building ourselves a home where Jesus is welcome to live.

Jesus called those disciples, and calls us, to pitch our tents, to make our dwellings -- at a new place, a holy piece of ground.

No matter what our earthly address might be, Jesus would have us live at the intersection of Heaven’s Way and Earth’s Avenue.

But to live at this address, we have to move a little.

It’s one of those curious things, I don’t know if it was planned.

But in downtown Knoxville, a city founded by Presbyterians, First Presbyterian Church is located at the intersection of Church and State (Streets).

A person could write a book about how Christians are called to live at the intersection of church and state.

One foot in this world, and one foot in God’s world.

Here we sit, at the intersection of Montlake Drive and Maloney Road.

In my opinion, a much prettier place than the intersection of Church and State.

At our intersection, we worship, we play, we eat pancakes.

We serve the community.

That’s our mission. That’s our unique calling, our job.

But whether we’re worshipping or eating or collecting for tsunami survivors, no matter what else we’re doing, at the core, we are hoping to find Jesus.

We come here on Sundays hoping to find Jesus.

We practice Choir, we go to committee meetings (Lord help us), because we’re trying to find Jesus.

We organize mission trips, and collect eyeglasses, and have youth lock-ins, because we’re trying to find Jesus.

We have built Jesus a beautiful home, with tennis courts and a soccer field, and a fellowship hall big enough to play full-contact basketball in.

We hope, we pray that Jesus will find this place inviting.

We hope, we pray that Jesus will want to join us here.

And, I believe, we believe, he does.

But not because we’ve built such a nice dwelling place for him.

Last week, the morning after New Prospect Presbyterian Church burned, I felt like I just had to go over there.

Not because I wanted to see what it looked like.

I turned onto Sevierville Pike and almost shut my eyes because I really didn’t want to see.

I felt like I had to be there for the same reason some of you went there – because you have friends who worship there, or family who go there, and you just want to do something.

I pulled into the parking lot about quarter of eight.

The collapsed roof of the building was still simmering.

You could smell the charred wood of this small, but historic little structure.

I got out of the car, and went over to the only other person there.

I introduced myself and we stood together in silence, just looking.

And then he told me his name.

He said, “I’m 91 years old.”

He said, “I was baptized in this church. Only church I’ve ever belonged to.”

From all appearances, it would be hard to believe that anyone would want to go back to that building, and try to rebuild, but I hear the members are.

From all appearances on that rainy morning after the fire, it would be hard to believe that Jesus would be in that burned-out rubble.

But in a way, I believe the Jesus of the resurrection, the Jesus of the empty tomb, was probably living more in that burned-out rubble, even more than he did when the church was standing.

Because when we can’t build a place for Jesus, when we’re stunned, and stumped, and staggering around in a daze, we hear what Jesus said to the disciples who wanted to build him a brand-new dwelling place, “Peace. Get up. Don’t be afraid.”

At Christmastime, we remember that one of the names the angels gave Jesus is, “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.”

God dwells with us, God lives with us, God worships with us.

Whether we’re at the intersection of Church and State, or Montlake and Maloney, or the burned-out ruins of a building on Sevierville Pike, Jesus’ name does not change.

“God with us,” is God with us.

On the mountaintops. In the valleys.

In the parking lots.

In the hospital rooms.

In the marriage counselor’s office.

In the funeral home.

On a Smoky Mountain trail where the only sound is the breeze lifting and lowering the leaves as if they themselves are raising and lowering their hands in homage to their Creator God.

God is with us.

God is with us where we live.

Jesus builds a tabernacle for us.

Jesus builds a dwelling place for us, out of his own body.

And that’s where he asks us to live.

At the heart of our place of worship, stands an intersection.

The cross.

The cross is the intersection where the church of Jesus Christ is located, no matter where it is.

Our horizontal world goes its way, and we are called to live along this plane of existence however many years we have.

But descending down from heaven is the long vertical spear of the cross.

It pierces through our plane of existence.

It bears the weight of this world.

It is what makes the whole thing stand as one, giving support, and lifting up what otherwise would just lay there on the ground.

Where does Jesus live?

Jesus lives at the intersection that IS the cross.

And Jesus invites you to live there, with him, too.

When we take the cup, and taste the bread of Communion, we’re seating ourselves at Christ’s earthly table.

We share Christ’s meal and imagine how glorious it’ll be at his heavenly banquet table.

We pass the elements to each other.

We share the goodness that IS Christ, in a real-world intersection kind-of way.

And he’s here.

He’s here.

Not because the bread is so good.

Not because the table is set so nicely.

Not because we’ve behaved ourselves well enough to sit at the big table one more time.

Jesus is here, because this is HIS place.

His place, not ours.

His table, not our table.

His body, his blood, not ours.

Nothing we could ever build, nothing we could ever imagine, would come close to the glory of Christ when he is revealed in his fullness.

Nothing could ever capture everything that Jesus is, was, and will be.

No dwelling place, no church building, no clumsily inspired disciples, Lord help us.

Jesus is here because he continues to be Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

And we’re here – WE’RE here – because he has invited us.

Like the disciples on the mountaintop, we’re with Jesus because he’s invited us to be with him.

And he means us no harm. He means us no fear.

He means for us peace. He wants us to stand up. And live.

Stand up and live with him, in a glimpse of glory to come.

Does Jesus live in our world?

Ask the survivors who find hope where there ought to be no hope.

Do we live in Jesus’ world?

Ask the people who find him in hidden mountaintops.

Ask the people who find strength to get up and not be afraid.

When you live at an intersection, the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

Yes, Jesus lives in our world.

Yes, we live in Jesus’ world.

Intersections can be dangerous places.

You have to look both ways twice before you cross the street.

You have to hold the hand of the ones younger.

You have to hold the arm of the ones who are older and need help.

But for the people wanting to have a dwelling place near Jesus, the intersection is the only place to be.

May God intersect with us, at Montlake and Maloney, or wherever we might be.