In all the drama of the Gospel readings that follow the reports that Jesus’ tomb is empty, there is a detail that is easily overlooked:
- the Risen Christ invites several of them to come on shore and sit down by the fire and eat the fish He has cooked for their breakfast;
- later, He appears in the upper room where He sat (or reclined as was the custom) to eat with them on that night before His death;
- and today we listen in on the story of two sitting around a table to have an evening meal with Jesus, Who, as they rush to report to the others in Jerusalem, appears to them and eats a piece of boiled fish.
Dr. Harry Wendt whose seminars and audiovisual resources bring the Scriptures to life, suggests that we place a “Jesus Chair” in our chancel and in our home, so that Jesus’ presence will become real through what He said to His first disciples in those after the empty tomb moments, those sit down moments, which we now hear as we read the accounts preserved in the Gospels.
So, “Do you have a ‘Jesus Chair’?”
Type in those two words on a webpage search bar and several offerings appear.
One is Lou Balducci’s eBay listing of a weather-worn wooden rocking patio chair with what he believes to be a small image of Jesus Christ on the backrest near the base. The starting bid is $25,000.
Another is a plain kitchen chair. When the mystic Rhoda Wise sat on it, Jesus would appear to her.
Another is a painted Guatemalan wooden arm chair. At the top of the back is a woodcarving of Jesus’ head; His arms are the armrests tipped with His hand at each end, and His legs and feet appear below the base of the seat.
Much simpler and at no cost is a “Jesus Chair” moment that is a being a time and a place with three options.
One is to sit down in the early morning and have a “Jesus Chair” moment with the Bible:
to let our spiritual breakfast be the Gospel words we hear today, and in hearing, change from “their” to “our”:
…he opened their/OUR minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them/to US,
“… that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
William Carey who was born in England in 1761, covered the walls of his shoemaker shop with maps of the world, and while he cobbled shoes, he read books to learn languages and noted every detail of every country.
It was while sitting in the quiet of his shop, and not some enthusiastic missionary conference, that he felt the call to go to India and answered, “Here am I, send me.”
Like Carey, might we begin the day with a Biblical breakfast of the words of Jesus while making where we sit our “Jesus Chair,” and taking time
to “let Jesus open our minds to understand …everything written about him;”
to let Jesus open our minds and hearts to see as William Carey saw, the world round us and before us ?
And maybe, like Carey, feel we are being sent to some distant land that is right outside our door - as someone has said the greatest mission is right around us, and the day before us that is our mission in Christ’s name…
William Carey makes me think of our at-home person who was a faithful voice on our choir, Joanne Hunsicker, whose personal life could have had her singing "Nobody knows the troubles I seen; nobody knows my sorrow,"
but she didn't. She lived with a glow on her face and a sense of well-being, which when visiting in her home and hearing her describe how she began each day was the clue.
In inclement or cold weather she had a chair inside the door that led to her small patio, on the patio she also had her favorite place to sit. Either place was where she began her day reading from the Bible, praying, and having her quiet time with God.
How to start our day, sitting in what for us is our “Jesus Chair” moment with the Bible.
The second option is to have a “Jesus Chair” moment at day’s end that is when we look back over that spread of time, and as we do we give the hours that have passed to Jesus, we give everyone we have met or heard about, we give ourselves and our world to Jesus…
as we end our day sitting in what for us is our “Jesus Chair” moment for prayer.
Between the hours of dawn and dusk, there may be a need to retreat to a third “Jesus Chair” moment:
when we can’t seem to find the strength to get through the day;
when everything has gone wrong,
when we’ve had our fill of everyone and everything and we are ready to heap a load of anger and frustration on the first person who comes along,
or dump it when we get home, and ultimately dump it all on God.
It is when we are caught up in these times, that Gestalt therapy formulated by Fritz Perls (1893-1970) proposes an empty chair; talk to it, gesture, dump everything on it, and then sit in the chair, sit in all that was dumped into it, taking it all in, absorbing what was said. Taking responsibility rather than projecting everything on others.
But as people of the Easter morning, as followers of the nail-pierced hands and gashed-sided risen Christ, we go beyond Gestalt therapy. We see, not ourselves but Christ sitting in our place, taking on our messiness, covered with the mire of a god-killing world, immersing Himself in it all, the One Who (as the hymn goes) “paid the price of sin;(so that only) He only unlock the door of heaven” to take us in, collapsing into His embrace, we hear Him say:
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed,
through the living and enduring word of God.
In a “God is still speaking devotional” for Mach 6, 2017, Kenneth L. Samuel reminded his readers that when David acted on his own and defied God’s counsel, going into battle that cost the lives of thousands, threatened the existence of Israel, thus inviting God’s wrath, he was ordered to make an altar. Later Solomon was ordered to build the temple on that spot to mark where God intervened and spared Jerusalem from destruction.
Inside that temple was the room called the Holy of Holies housing the ark (a chest) containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments - given when God made the pledge, "I will be your God and you will be my people" who keep covenant with God by walking in the way of those laws...which humans soon broke, and keep on breaking.
The covering over that chest in the Holy of Holies was called the “Mercy seat.” On the Day of Atonement the high priest would enter the chamber and sprinkle the sacrificial blood of the lamb on the seat as the sign of God’s pardon of the sins of God’s commandment-breaking people. Later John the Baptizer would look at Jesus and cry out, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Jesus, the "Mercy Seat!"
Pastor Samuel said, “Our places of worship are where God's mercy meets the madness of our lives; …where the ravaging forces of human tragedy and personal guilt are touched and transcended by the steadfast grace and mercy of a Redeemer who loves us through it all.”
The God we experience, making us His “born anew” people when sitting in what for us is our atoning, pardoning “Jesus Chair” where we hear Him saying:
"Come Ye disconsolate, Where'er ye languish
Come to the Mercy Seat, Fervently kneel
Here bring your wounded heart, Here tell your anguish
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal."
…God’s gift given when sitting in the “Jesus Chair” of God's love that embraces us though Jesus Christ.
Three "Jesus Chair" moments:
in the morning sitting in what for us is our “Jesus Chair” moment with the Bible;
at day's end sitting in what for us is our "Jesus Chair" moment in prayer;
and any time between the two in what is for us our "Jesus Chair" moment of confession and pardon. Thanks be to God! Amen.