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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost 2012 - Where's Jesus? The Final Chapter

At our house, we're big fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. And robes. Wands. Posters. Necklaces. Games. Puzzles. In fact, I'm pretty sure Warner Brothers' merchandising department has us in their speed dial.

One of the many magically cool creations from J. K. Rowling's imagination is that in Harry Potter's world, the pictures and paintings move. If you get a newspaper, like, The Daily Prophet, the photos are more  like looping video clips. And if you have paintings of historical people, the paintings move and even talk to you when you walk past. Sometimes, the people in the paintings will disappear, like they're taking a break from posing, or gone over to talk to the subject of another portrait hanging nearby. After all, as Ron Weasley explains to Harry, you can't expect them to hang around all day.

I say this because we've spent a lot of time this past month asking the question, "Where's Jesus?" And the kids have gone each week in search of Jesus. Well, not Jesus himself. Well, maybe they have, on their own time, but they don't get any points for that. Officially, the kids have gone looking for a painting of Jesus. A painting.

The painting the kids and some of us adults have been looking for and finding is called, "Head of Christ." Most people kind of assume Jesus himself posed for it. Actually was painted by Chicago-based, Swedish immigrant painter, Werner Sallman in 1935. So it's really very contemporary, as paintings go. Sallman wasn't known as an artist, per se. He was an ad man from Chicago, a commercial advertising illustrator. Sallman's "Head of Jesus" painting was commissioned by the Church of God - Parenthesis - Anderson, Indiana - close parenthesis. This is a different church than the Church of God - parenthesis Cleveland, Tennessee - that many of us are more familiar with. The Church of God (Anderson), was founded in 1881 by Daniel Sidney Warner (no relation to the Warner Brothers of Harry Potter movie production). The Church of God (Anderson) doesn't call itself a denomination, because it's anti-denominational, doesn't have creeds, and doesn't believe in membership. Originally they were part of the pacifist resistance to World War II. But they got over that. They're not a very big or well-known religious body. But -- they have a totally awesome marketing department. Warner Press, the publishing arm of the Church of God (Anderson) holds the copyright to the "Head of Christ" painting. They claim to have distributed - get this J. K. Rowling - 500 million reproductions. 500 million. No wonder this is how everybody thinks Jesus looks. And, if you can't find him here, don't worry. Because he's appearing in over 500 million locations around the world.

Now, bear with me. There is a connection. I found Jesus at our church last week, at least I found his painting. And I was kind of meditating on the painting. And, the idea flashed into my head. What if the paintings of Jesus were like the paintings in Harry Potter? What if the paintings could talk to us? What if they could give us clues to find, not just Goblets of Fire, but what if they could give us real direction? We really could go have a little talk with Jesus. But then, I thought, would Jesus really be content to just hang around in an empty church hallway six days a week? Or would he go off someplace else? And what if all 500 million paintings of Jesus got together and, if so, would we all be in big trouble? Would all the Jesus paintings talk like midwestern, pacifist, Swedish immigrant, sectarian mad men? Or would they each sound different, based on the 500 million places where their paintings have been hanging all these years? Would Jesus sound different to different cultures, and different churches, and different people? And what if all 500 million started talking at the same time? Would we think we were having flashbacks from the '60s, like, Aw man, momma told me not to come to that party? Would people think had lost it if we told them we'd been talking to paintings, and they'd been talking back?

Welcome to Pentecost, y'all.

Because that's pretty much the scene that went down back in Jerusalem that day in the second chapter of Acts. There was a rush of wind and tongues of fire, and the disciples all started speaking for Jesus in languages they couldn't understand, but that strangers from about - OK, not 500 million, but about - 50 places could understand. And some people said they'd been hitting the sauce a little early in the day. But the Apostle Peter stood up and said,

These [men] are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.

No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

And I will show signs in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

Harry Potter's got nothing on the Bible. Talking paintings? The Holy Spirit says, "Wait'll they get a load of me."

You see, the Bible's #1 special effect is talking to us about really, really weird stuff that nobody can reproduce or control or contain. Even 500 million is nothing compared to the infinity of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can't be pictured, except in what it does. So if you're looking for Jesus to hang around in one place, and sound the same, and look the same, and always stay the same, you're going to be very disappointed, or very defensive. Or both. The Holy Spirit goes beyond anything, or anyone, or any painting.

And now, Caroline Owen's going to explain Pentecost in her own voice, and she will be the final word in our series, "Where's Jesus?"

[Caroline & Tobii:]

When James said finish the sermon I thought he was joking!  After being here these past few weeks I see he was not kidding soâ ¦.here  goes.

    I see Christ in all situations, not only in my life, but also in the lives of others.  I think that everyone who works with me is a saint in their own right!   To me this shows that there is a bit of Christ everywhere and in everyone. All you have to do is take a look at the Fellowship sign in the hallway and you will find Christâ  s love in all those pictures of family and friends. There is evidence of God in every place!  For example, we can find Christâ  s presence when we are at work or play or even when we are asleep.

  I guess what I am trying to say is, you donâ  t need a painting to see Christ, just turn around and look at the people who love you.  

- jamesmctyre.com