Where’s Jesus? And where are you?

Dear Friends and Family at All Saints’ Episcopal Church,

One of the more interesting scenes at President Biden’s inauguration was the shot of a very well bundled-up Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, sitting while keeping “social distance” and watching the inaugural events.  It seems that Senator Sanders’ picture went viral, being inserted in other people’s pictures and displayed as a “meme.” (Thankfully, I understand that Senator Sanders is using this display of his image as a fundraiser for charities). One of my friends, a photographer in Oregon, inserted Sanders alone on a deserted landscape, looking away from a beautiful sunset!

This “take” on Bernie Sanders’ image reminds me of the books featuring the character “Waldo” and his friends, under the main title, “Where’s Waldo?”  The viewer is asked to find the red-and-white clad Waldo among the various scenes and people depicted in each picture.

It might be fun to see images of either Senator Sanders or “Waldo” among the various ordinary scenes and events around us.  However, on January 6th, when our Capitol building was ransacked by a ruthless mob, it would be difficult to find an image of a comfortable, placid member of Congress or a fictional Waldo-like character in their midst.  The truth is that Senator Sanders, along with his colleagues in the Senate and House, were safely escorted from their respective chambers to secure shelters on the premises. And although there were a few who were dressed in somewhat odd attire, there was no Waldo-like fictional character to be seen.

The reason I bring this up is to pose the question: “Where was Jesus” on January 6, which also happened to be the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord to the Magi? Why didn’t he stop this act of violence in our nation’s Capital building? Why didn’t he provide for more troops to meet the rabble-rousers? Wouldn’t it have been great for our nation to see some kind of “Epiphany” or revelation of our Risen Lord, that would bring those offenders to their knees?

We like to see images of Jesus, and sometimes we even believe that he’s here with us. But where is Jesus when we see devastating events such as what happened on January 6th? Where is Jesus when we’re feeling “down” about something and can’t seem to get out of the horrible mood that we’re in?

Believe me – Jesus was here on January 6 and is here with us NOW: 

  • with those who were trying to defend the Capitol and the Congresspersons within,
  • with those people who were part of the rally on the 6th but chose to be non-violent,
  • with those of us who were praying for peace and safety from afar,
  • with our Senators and Representatives of both parties (and the two Independents) and former Vice President (Mike Pence), who decided to proceed to certify the votes of the Electoral College, despite the horrendous incident that happened earlier that day,
  • and with people of good will, who know that our country, and our people, are better than what the media portrayed in the Capitol on January 6th.

After the end of many Holy Eucharists that he celebrated, a priest friend of mine would say words to this effect: “Blessed and honored be the Holy Name of Jesus, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father; in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, and in the hearts of ALL his faithful people. Amen.” 

While reflecting on his words, I know that Jesus is always connected to the Father and Spirit in the Holy Trinity and is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. But Jesus is always with — and in — the hearts of his faithful people. So, I finally ask: Where are YOU and me? Are we aware that Jesus is with us at all times? Are we open to the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, enabling us to respond to “bad news of the world” with the “good news of Jesus Christ”? Are we Jesus’ lights in a darkened, selfish world? God is counting on you and me to show the world around us NOT Bernie Sanders, NOT Waldo, but our Savior, Jesus, the Christ. Let’s remember this, and also remember that we cannot be Christ’s lights in the world without the help of God. My prayer this Epiphany Season is that we can step up and out into the world, rejoicing in the Spirit, and showing those around us that our loving God, in the person of Jesus, is truly here among us in every situation, never, ever leaving us helpless!

With love for you and yours, in Christ, 
Jim Bernacki+