Everywhere and Always
Everywhere and Always
I love words, especially words that you don’t run into very often. Words like “ubiquity.”
When theologians talk about “ubiquity,” it’s usually a conversation about God’s presence. The more typical term is “omnipresence,” signifying that God is everywhere. All at the same time.
Christians sometimes speak of the ubiquity of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper – everywhere that Christians gather at his table, Jesus is present.
During the Easter season, between the days of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the disciples experienced a peculiar kind of ubiquity with Jesus. He kept showing up unannounced, and often they didn’t recognize him at first. If he could suddenly appear in a locked room, he could appear anywhere, at any time.
This is very different from the more generalized forms of ubiquity that see the presence of God everywhere all at once. It is Jesus showing up personally, but without restrictions of space or time.
The Gospels tell us very little about Jesus’ activity after his resurrection. After offering lengthy painstakingly detailed accounts of Jesus trial and crucifixion, the Gospels tell us nothing about Jesus’ resurrection itself. All we get are a few subsequent appearances of Jesus to his disciples.
What we do learn is that Jesus can and does show up anywhere, anytime. Sometimes he is recognized, often he is not. In each case where he shows up incognito, he is appearing at a time of crisis. Just when he is needed most.
All of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances occur at his initiative. His followers don’t seek him out, he’s just there. During the forty days prior to his ascension Jesus is training his disciples to believe what prove to be his final words to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Everywhere and anywhere. Always.
His mode of being with them, and with us, is personal, not general. And just as with his followers back then, we often don’t recognize him when we encounter him. Prior to his crucifixion Jesus predicted that would be the case, telling his hearers that when they reach out to a person in need, they are reaching out to him personally, unbeknownst to them.
Jesus does offer one way that we can find him without fail. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” He isn’t visible, but he is surely present.
Jesus had much more to say about those on the social margins than he did about the church. He was a church-goer, to be sure, but for him the church was a means to a greater end, namely the repair of the world.
Still, we ignore the church to our peril. We need the church as the practice field for being the kind of people Jesus calls us to be. We gather in his name in order to be in his presence, from which he sends us out to do his work in the world, where we will again encounter him but never know we did.
Yes, Jesus is with us wherever we gather in his name, and wherever we partake of his body and blood at his table. There in his company we are nourished by him and through each other’s company. It is so good to be there that, like Peter at Jesus’ transfiguration, we might want to set up camp and just stay there. But Jesus always turns us back out to the world where he is truly everywhere.
In each person.
What would our world be like if we treated every person as though they were Jesus himself? We can begin by practicing that in the church. That’s one of the primary reasons the church exists, to exhibit the kingdom of God. It’s a tall order, make no mistake. Yet if we can do it there, perhaps we can do it anywhere.
If Christians were intentional about seeing Jesus in every person they met, our world would be transformed.
In Easter joy,