Encounters with Jesus
“He comes to us as one unknown . . .” So begins Albert Schweitzer’s poetic reflection on the person of Jesus, a reflection we have shared recently as a call to worship as well as a stirring anthem offered by our chancel choir. With those few words, Schweitzer captures something of the mystery of this figure named Jesus who emerges on the first-century landscape in ways that will result in the formation of the Christian movement, touch the lives of countless human beings in life-giving and life-changing ways, and profoundly alter the course of human history. As the gospel of John would put it, his life among us, and the bread with which he would feed us, is offered “for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Who is this Jesus? What does it mean to encounter him in history? And what does it mean to encounter him now, in real time and in real ways? Somewhere beyond the pages of the gospels that portray his life, encounter still happens, much as it happened along the Galilean lakeshore two thousand years ago.
Most of us have wounded facets to our lives. Maybe something has been lost, something in us is hurt or angry or regretful, or perhaps something frightens or shames us deeply. To encounter Jesus with these needs close to our awareness is to allow the possibility of being set free to live again, unbound, unburdened, deeply whole.
During the season of Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26th and culminates at Easter, we will take up, on Sunday mornings, gospel stories of people who encountered Jesus, seeking to encounter Jesus ourselves both in those stories and within our own hearts. By some mystery, by some grace, we may come alongside the woman at the well, or a certain blind man, or Lazarus, and find ourselves, as they did, so taken by this figure named Jesus that our lives are forever changed.
As we enter the season the ancients called “the springtime of the soul,” what are you shouldering deep within that aches, or gnaws, or otherwise diminishes your spirit? I invite you to prepare to bring those burdens to the figure named Jesus, who once said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Each of the Sundays in Lent we will share a sung refrain, set within a hymn we’ll revisit all season: “Come and join the song, women, children, men. Jesus makes us free to live again!” I look forward to the possibility and promise of sharing with you such liberating, life-giving encounters with Jesus.
Grace and peace.
Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor