Sermon from November 23rd, 2014. The Text for this sermon was Matthew 25:31-46.
The Christ in Me Greets the Christ in Thee
There was a wonderful old lady I met who used to greet people in an unusual way. When you saw her on Sunday morning and went over to say hello she would say, “The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee.” It’s an old-fashioned way of saying hello. But it’s a very beautiful way as well, and I wish more of us would take it up. It recognizes that Christ dwells in each one of us, and so when we greet one another we aren’t just greeting another person, but we’re meeting the presence of Jesus Christ within that person. It doesn’t matter how we feel about that particular person on that day because at some level our encounter with them is an encounter with Christ.
The flip side is that it requires us to acknowledge that Christ dwells within us as well. So many of our problems come from not being able to recognize the Christ in ourselves. We abuse ourselves because we don’t think we’re worth treating better. We behave badly because we don’t think we’re capable of being better. We get down on ourselves because we can’t find it in ourselves to forgive our mistakes and failures. “The Christ in me greets the Christ in Thee” reminds us that you may not feel particularly Christ-like on any given day. But nevertheless Christ abides within you too.
I read a post recently by a blogger named Juan Carlos Lopez that brought this idea to the forefront for me. He says he was on his way to grab some lunch one day when he noticed someone looking at him. He averted his eyes, but he could still feel the stare. As he got closer he pretended to be on his phone so that he could pass by without being bothered, but the man spoke up: “Can I have some change?”
He wanted to shrug him off and say that he didn’t have any, but it wasn’t true. He was going to buy lunch. “Maybe on my way back?” he said.
On the way back he wanted to avoid him but it didn’t sit right. So he walked back by with his lunch and handed him the leftover dollar in his pocket and do his duty. “It’s all I have,” he said. “But you have lots of food,” the man said. “Can I have some?”
He kept walking, but he couldn’t get away. After that meeting Juan Carlos started seeing him everywhere. On the off ramp to the highway. Standing on the sidewalk next to a breakfast joint. Everywhere he looked, there he was. Homeless Jesus seemed to be following him around.
“It’s so easy to have a personal relationship with a Christ you never see,” Lopez says. We show up on Sunday, say our prayers, read inspirational books and watch Christian television. And we try to do the right thing so that we can count ourselves as good people. But then Jesus shows up, in the form of a man in dirty clothes holding a sign on the highway, and knocks us off balance. When you start to see the world this way, it gets much harder to have that personal relationship. Because everywhere you go, there Jesus is, asking for things you don’t want to give to people you don’t want to give it to.
There, at the laundromat at 9pm, still in her work uniform, there’s Tired Jesus. Down on the highway, walking with a dirty bag on his shoulder, that’s Can’t Get a Job Jesus. Or maybe it’s Veteran Whose PTSD Means He Can’t Hold a Job Jesus. At the food pantry there’s Working Two Jobs and Still Not Enough Jesus. And in the prison down the highway there’s Doing a Five to Ten for Assault Jesus. At the Immigrant Detention Center in Karnes City there’s a Jesus running away from gang violence who wants a better life.
There they all are. There Jesus is. Trying to reach out to us. The Christ in them longing and needing to meet the Christ in us.
When I was younger I used to love those stories where the king would go out in disguise among his people, to see how they were really treated. And at the end of the story the king would throw off his cloak and reveal himself to them and be either delighted at their kindness or dismayed at their mistreatment of their fellow citizens. But of course those were stories. In the real world, most of the time no one is watching.
But our passage from Matthew tells us that the King is here, not even hidden or in disguise, right there for us to see him if we choose to. The King is everywhere, and he is watching. Not looking to trap us but to offer us salvation. He’s reaching out to save us. To save us from apathy and indifference. To save us from living our lives without paying attention to the people around us. To save us from judging others for their situations. To save us from walking blindly past while others suffer.
The passage teaches us to see Christ in all the people that we meet. Not just those with whom it is easy. But those who ask for more than we want to give, and those who push us away even as they need us to come close. The hungry and the thirsty. The sick and the ones in prison. The naked and alone. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee.
If we do this we will no longer see other people through our own eyes but through Christ’s eyes. We will no longer hear with our own ears but with Christ’s ears. We will no longer reach out to each other with our own hands, but with Christ’s hands. We can’t see the Christ in all of these without coming face to face with the Christ who dwells within ourselves. So open your eyes to the reality that your king dwells among you and within you, and let the Christ in others introduce yourself to the Christ in you.
 Lopez, Juan Carlos. “Homeless Jesus” Running La Carrera, 1 July 2014. Accessed 23 November 2014. http://runninglacarrera.com/2014/07/01/homeless-jesus/