Many years ago, when our children were very young, during our vacation in North Carolina we stopped at Duke University so I could show our children my alma mater. The girls had not been there since they were babies, and since Dad was always talking about what a wonderful place Duke was, I decided I should show it to them.
I saved the best part of the tour for last and we entered Duke Chapel. There was the typical sign when one enters a cathedral asking that visitors be quiet, as there may be people praying and meditating. So, with our four children we walked quietly to the front of the chancel area. As we walked I drew their attention to the sculptures and stained glass, giving them a lesson on why the sculpture of Paul was in one place, and Peter in another. As I whispered in the midst of the silent, praying people, our son Jason (about four years of age) blurted out at the top of his lungs, "Where's Jesus?" "Where's Jesus?" He wasn't interested in Paul. He didn't care about Peter. He wanted to see Jesus.
I tried to quiet him down discreetly, but to no avail. "Where's Jesus?" "Where's Jesus?" As people were raising their heads looking at us-- some smiling, some not-- I finally pointed to the stained glass window at the back of the chancel and I said to him, "Jason, there's Jesus!" Instead of silencing him, he shouted all the louder, "Jesus!" "Jesus!"
That is the heart of it all, isn't it? It is conviction of the New Testament writers that Jesus is Lord and the crux of Christian faith. The center of Christianity is not an idea, not a program, but a person-- this carpenter from Nazareth. For the church Jesus is the center of the faith and must always be.
The church gets into trouble when it loses sight of Jesus. When something or someone else becomes the center of that faith community's life and worship, it falls into serious trouble. Those groups we typically call cults have lost the central place of Christ, and have substituted someone else, a visionary or a self-proclaimed prophet. Visionaries and prophets are supposed to point to Jesus, not to themselves.
The task of the church, the followers of Jesus is to keep the main thing the main thing. That main thing is Jesus. There can be no substitutes. It's Jesus. Every Sunday we gather together for worship and Sunday School, at every church meeting, in all of our educational events, classes, special services, mission outreach; in everything we say and do, we should see Jesus in our midst. If we cannot see Jesus in our midst, then not only is it impossible to fulfill our tasks as disciples, it is impossible to present Jesus to others; for many people are looking for Jesus. Some of them may not know they are looking for Jesus, but they are. There are people like you and me who need to be transformed. There are people like you and me who are hurting. There are people like you and me who need hope. There are like you and me who need the truth. There are people like you and me who need Jesus. They want to see Jesus, and the only way they will be able to see and meet Jesus is through us. If they do not see Jesus in us, they may not see Jesus at all.
The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20). Since we are made in the image of God, that means our lives reflect the image of Jesus Christ; and that must mean something for the way we live every day. People need to see Jesus. They are looking for Jesus in us. Can they see him?