The 2014 Northeastern Iowa Synod began on a beautiful balmy evening. As people registered and milled about, it soon became clear what was going to be the hit of the assembly.
Assembly Jesus. A little flat Jesus on a stick that assembly goers could take everywhere to remind them Jesus is with them. Not a new idea. It’s a takeoff from Flat Stanley and other ideas where an object is taken around the world and pictures posted online to track its progress.
People like being reminded Jesus is with us. “Show em Jesus” is my best advice for preachers. We got all kinds of agendas and ideas and tasks for the church. But what people really need is to see Jesus. Because when we see Jesus we see God and God’s love for us. It is Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s relentless message. First of all, we are the church. And the church’s main job is to show people Jesus. We can do a lot of other things, but first of all, show people Jesus.
That was the message of Bishop Ullestad’s opening sermon tonight. He told a story of how one church was able to show Jesus to a young mother and her child with sensory disorder that often cause him to melt down in church. Where they had been met with stares and judgment at other congregations, one ELCA congregation just showed them love and acceptance. And in so doing, they showed them Jesus.
The Gospel for Pentecost is a much quieter, less dramatic story of the Holy Spirit than the Acts story with its fire and wind. But it is an important story. It is the story of Jesus breaking through our locked doors of fear with a message of peace. We need to see Jesus.
It may all seem like fun and games with little flat Assembly Jesus. But Assembly Jesus is an important reminder that there is no where we can go, no place so dark or frightening, that Jesus does not come and bring us peace.
So if there are any left, if you are here, you should pick up an Assembly Jesus.
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director For Evangelical Mission, ELCA