Country Pastor: Do we see Jesus?
By Amy Kosari, pastor of First and Laurel Presbyterian churches
Two days ago I was listening to an old record with my mother; it was Tennessee Ernie Ford singing hymns. I had never heard of him before but my mother explained that he was famous and had had his own show back in the 1950's.
As we listened I was struck by a thought. In the 1950's America had a good conscience. We had just fought a war to right the wrong, to free the prisoner, to liberate the Jewish people from the concentration camps. We had a good conscience and you could hear it in the power and nobility of Tennessee Ernie Ford's voice. But such peace of mind is rare. Why? Because unlike in a dictatorship we know that the buck stops with us. In a democracy, it is the people who are responsible for both domestic and foreign policy. In other countries, particularly those with no substantial history of democracy, conspiracy theories run rampant; many that I have spoken to believe that some unknown elite, some "they" control the world. In America we tend to know better. We know that we are the "they." And we know in our heart that we have done wrong.
Certainly we have done good things but we have also been unjust and cruel. And we think that God is angry with us. Please understand that I do not deny that there is wrath; God would not be a good God were he not angry with oppression and injustice. Folks wiser than me have pointed out places where they can see God's anger expressed. But these same mentors have also taught me to beware of those who see God's wrath everywhere but somehow never seem to get around to talking about Jesus much.
And my question is, "Do we see Jesus?" Do we know what Jesus really means? Do we hear what the Bible is saying about him? Do we understand that he is a demonstration, a gigantic billboard to all the wicked world inscribed with a very simple sentence, "You are forgiven."
Do we hear what the angel says, "Peace on earth, goodwill to men?" Except what it actually says is "peace on earth to men of delight?" In other words, God delights in wicked, disobedient mankind. Do we understand that the Lord approves of us. Do we know he delights in us? God spoke to Israel, wicked Israel, oppressive Israel that did not hear or understand no matter what God did, (Isaiah 42) "But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel, Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you, they shall not overwhelm, when you go through the fire you shall not be burned ... you are precious and honored in my sight and I love you." (Isaiah 43)
The other day as I drove myself to Rochester I was in great anxiety and I was moved to speak in tongues, a practice I had neglected. By the end of the drive my heart was deeply, profoundly comforted and I realized that for a long time now I have been a burden to others because of my worries. In God's goodness I saw that I had done wrong to people I love and I saw that I was changed and could make a change. It is truly God's goodness that gives us repentance.
Does America today see Jesus' shining face and through him, see the love of the Father, see his great faithfulness and forgiveness and compassion? Do we see his delight in us? When we do, and I pray this moment comes soon, we will look at ourselves and see that whether we are conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, all we like sheep have gone astray, that we have failed one another and that each of us has neglected his neighbor and failed in brotherly love and then we will turn around to victory and take our inheritance, "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."