Sunday, December 6

advent 2009

The bread and the cup – two of the most powerful symbols of the Christian faith. As we gather around the Lord’s table we experience communion with fellow believers and an awareness of the presence of Christ. So I should not have been surprised a few months ago when I looked at the bread I held in my hand and saw the face of Jesus. There were very clearly two eyes, a nose, the left ear, and a mouth smiling at me. I knew immediately that it was Jesus rather than Elvis or the Virgin Mary; it was, after all, a Communion Service. While I know such sightings often inspire a sense of awe and lead to shrines, I was mostly filled with a case of the giggles and obediently put the bread in my mouth when the words “Take and eat” were spoken.

The face of Jesus shows up in an odd assortment of places. He has been seen in water-stained plaster, toast, Cheetos (a whole separate category known as “Cheesus”), beer foam, dental x-rays, and a dog’s ear. Call me a skeptic, but I find it difficult to believe that Jesus ever appears in someone’s frying pan. I do, however, believe that I see the face of Jesus every day.

Teresa of Avila, a Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun in the 16th century, wrote, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours…” In addition to being Christ’s hands and feet, all who claim the name Christian also show the face of Christ to the world.

Several years ago I had a student from Jordan in my ESL class, a beautiful woman named Rachida, a devout Muslim who was bothered by what she saw as the immorality in this country. Like many who don’t know better, she equated the United States with Christianity. For her, the logical conclusion was that Christians must be immoral. It became clear to me that I had a greater responsibility than helping Rachida with her English. My face was going to be the face that she associated with Christ. What was she going to see each week as she came to class?

Rachida left at the end of that school year to return to Jordan. I imagine that she is still a devout Muslim, but I pray that the Holy Spirit is working in her life and that when she hears the name Jesus Christ she remembers the faces of those of us who cared for her.

The next time we gather for communion, remember that you are in the presence of Christ. And when you take the bread and the cup, don’t be surprised if you see the face of Jesus. In fact, anticipate seeing his face in the faces of those who sit around you. Know that someone is expecting to see Jesus’ face in yours.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness…(II Corinthians 3:18a)

– Gaye Rountree

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