When Jesus shows up unexpectedly

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By Nancy Kennedy

When it comes to serving at my church, I have two jobs.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a communion server. I’m also emcee for the monthly senior ministry events, dinners and such.
With a microphone in hand I quiet them down, tell a few senior-related jokes, dismiss the people at the tables to go get their food and introduce featured guests.
Sometimes I refill cups of iced tea or clear plates away.
Basically, I just show up and try not to mess things up so badly that God can’t fix it.
A few weeks ago we had our first seniors’ event of the 2013-14 season, an Italian dinner. I told the story of 82-year-old Morris who went to his doctor for a physical. A week or so later the doctor sees Morris walking through town with his arm around a gorgeous young woman.
“Looking good there Morris,” the doctor says.
“Just taking your advice, Doc,” Morris tells him. “You said, ‘Get a hot mama and be cheerful.’”
“That’s not what I said,” the doctor replies. “I said you’ve got a heart murmur and to be careful!”
That’s funny when you’re 65, 70 or 80.
The room was packed with people, many of whom I’ve known, at least by sight, for 20-plus years. A few have lost their spouses, which is sad.
On the one hand, they’re getting out and socializing. On the other hand, they’re now alone, but not really because when two or more gather in Jesus’ name, especially in his house, Jesus shows up and joins in the activities and the table conversations.
Usually at these senior events I, too, join in the conversation. However, on that particular evening I felt like watching, taking mental note of the goings on. I noted a lot of laughter, a lot of good-natured teasing of one another. You have to love someone and feel loved to be able to give and take teasing.
The featured program of the evening was a five-part harmony group, five men who sang gospel songs.
As they sang, I watched how people listened. There was some toe-tapping and moving of feet, some head nodding, some smiling. I felt removed from it all and quite clinical, as if I should be wearing a white lab coat and holding a clip board, checking off boxes.
And then Jesus showed up, not that he hadn’t been there all along — I just hadn’t realized he had shown up for me.
The singing group, the Journeymen, began singing “Jesus Loves Me.”
At first, my jaded, “too cool for school” attitude got the best (or maybe the worst) of me and I silently snickered.
Really? “Jesus Loves Me”?
“Yes,” the men sang. “Yes, Jesus loves me.”
“Little ones to him belong.” (Hmmm. I’m little, I thought.)
“They are weak” (That’s me) “but he is strong” (Yeah, but is he strong enough to break through my hard heart?)
“Yes, Jesus loves me.” (I hear you, but how can that be when I don’t love him like I should?)
As they sang, line by line, it was as if Jesus himself slipped into the seat next to me, leaned over and whispered, “This one’s for you.”
I felt my frosty heart warm just a bit. I’m a tough cookie and I keep people — and Jesus — at arm’s length for the most part, but every once in a while Jesus shows up and I have a moment.
And then the song and the moment ended, but not really because I’m still thinking about it.
When Jesus shows up, he brings grace and mercy with him. He breaks through your strongest defenses and touches the parts of you deep inside that you hadn’t even known had been damaged.
When Jesus shows up, without a word, except for maybe the words of a simple children’s song, he lets you know that he hears your prayers, even the ones you dare not pray lest you be disappointed.
When Jesus shows up and you have a moment, even when the moment ends, it never really ends because you carry it with you so whenever you start thinking you’ll never be as faithful as you want to be, that’s when you remember “Yes, Jesus loves me,” and ultimately everything will be OK. And you know it’s true.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.