Where is Jesus?
Bishop Pierre Whalon preached at Cathédrale Sainte-Trinité in Port-au-Prince, Haiti few weeks ago, and then again at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As he explains, he thought both congregations should hear the same sermon. These two Anglican cathedrals could not be more different at the moment. And yet, they are filled by worshipers who proclaim the same Risen Lord. One congregation proclaims this truth in the midst of soaring architecture and grand music. The other proclaims this truth surrounded by rubble and death.
Here is an excerpt from Bishop Whalon’s fine sermon:
The great Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, writing in the 16th century, said that we should not argue over the manner in which the bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. We are to obey by eating and drinking, not arguing. And he adds this beautiful sentence: “These mysteries do as nails fasten us to his very Cross.” That is, by eating and drinking his Body and Blood we accept his sacrifice for us on the cross, and we join him in it. And we also join him in what follows—his resurrection. For in Christ, the Holy Trinity shares our life, which is subject to suffering, whether from disease and hunger, or from losing one’s job and one’s home. And God lives with us our death, whether by earthquake or cholera, knife crime or terrorist bomb.
So where was Jesus on 12 January, and after, as this disaster becomes worse? He is being born, not in Bethlehem but in a makeshift tent made of some poles and blankets, which will blow away when the monsoon starts next month. Jesus is selling bananas that he’s picked by the side of the road so he can get a few coins to survive another day. He is moving about us, crawling on legs amputed when his house fell on him, he is dying as a slab of reinforced concrete crushes him, he is buried with the others whom you can still see — and smell — under the ruins of the Diocese of Haiti’s trade school next door to the rubble that was their magnificent cathedral.
And he is Alive. Jesus is Alive! All that we suffer, Jesus suffers. He is with us now. And because Jesus is risen from the dead, Alive among us, we also have life. So all those who perished in the earthquake since — and the death toll is rising toward 400,000 — live with him. “If Christ be not raised,” St Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to them — “If Christ be not raised, your faith is null and void, you are still in your sins, and those who have died are utterly lost. But Christ did rise from the dead.” Jesus is alive, and so we can believe that all who perished in the earthquake, and all whom we love, now share his new life.