‘We wish to see Jesus’

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Plaque on the pulpit at Toronto’s Cathedral Church of St. James: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Photo: Saskia Rowley

In many churches, these words are etched on a brass plaque or penned on a piece of parchment near the pulpit. They are from the 12th chapter of the Gospel according to John. Some Greeks who have heard of Jesus and his teaching wish to meet him. They bring their request to Philip, who takes it to Andrew and together they take it to Jesus. What follows is an exchange in which Jesus says he welcomes all who want to meet him. He goes on to say that all who want to serve him must abide by his teaching. Then he assures all who trust in him that where he is, there they will be also (John 12:26).

These words “we wish to see Jesus” remind the preacher that he/she is to proclaim Christ and his gospel. In many respects, the desire of those who come week by week to hear the Word of God is the same desire of the Greeks. They want to see Jesus. They want, as Richard of Chichester prayed, “to know him more clearly, to love him more dearly, to follow him more nearly.” The preacher’s task is to open up the text for the day in a manner that the people are drawn into it and find their own place within it—called, taught, transformed, comforted, stretched, summoned and graced with some new insight.

Insofar as these words “we wish to see Jesus” apply to the preacher, they apply to all of us. They raise questions like these: how do we receive those who in their quest “to see Jesus” are checking us out? How do we welcome and accompany them? Can they see Jesus in us? Can they see in this little household of faith a joyous proclaiming of the gospel, not only within the beauty of the liturgy, but in the neighbourhood in which we are set? Can they see Jesus in our attentiveness to the poor, in our work for justice, in our care for the Earth?

I think these words “we wish to see Jesus” also speak to the church national. In the past 10 years, Anglicans in Canada have described themselves as “a people seeking to know, love and follow Jesus in serving God’s mission in the world.” The “seeking” reminds us that our calling as a church is aspirational. We aspire “to see Jesus” and to live his gospel with joy and integrity.

In this very spirit, I will in coming months be inviting Anglicans across Canada into a time of heart-to-heart conversations about our life in Jesus and our work in his name. Everyone will have opportunity to be engaged. Stay tuned…

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Fred Hiltz
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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