Looking for John (and Jesus).

We met for coffee, Hope and I. It happens sometimes, dad and daughter. As we walked around the mall (for walking and talking, not shopping), a guy with a walker came toward us. We passed. “That’s Saint John,” I said.

Saint John of the Mall was one of my favorite books to write, conversations at the mall with the disciple John during Advent. And it started because I asked myself, “What if that man we see here often, sitting and walking around the mall all day, is John?”

It’s an intriguing exercise.

What if that person who annoys you with endless questions is Peter? What if that person who disappeared into the hospital is Mary Magdalene? What if the person we can’t find family for is Jesus?

{And this is the annoying power of writing. I started writing this post and I started thinking.]

As chaplains, we often are called on to find family members for people who come into the hospital. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, actually. Between medical records and online obituaries and small-town newspaper articles about sports teams and Facebook and police, I sometimes feel like I’m on NCIS. We celebrate when we find next-of-kin.

But I just realized as I’m writing this post that in these searches, I’m often trying to solve a mystery, to make a connection. And if we can’t, we can’t.

But what if I were trying to find next of kin for Jesus? Or on behalf of Jesus? If I knew it was for him, I would do everything I could imagine to make connections. And I would remind myself that James tells us that we can ask God for wisdom, and so I would say, “God, this person, created in your image, has you and has us, but has to have someone else in the world who can help us make decisions. So help us find them, please. Because, at this moment, God only knows who they are. And You are God.”

When Jesus talks about caring for others and finding that we are caring for him, the metaphor can lead to action.

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