Christ’s presence in our presence.

Robert Jenson writes in Visible Words,

“All aspects of Jesus’ presence to us are the same as of any other person; but they work together very differently. When I hear the gospel, I am addressed with the implicit or explicit claim that it is Jesus with whom I have to do. When I say I do not see him, that our communion lacks an object on one side, I am referred to the objectivity of the speaking and hearing community. If I then suppose that “Jesus” is here just a label for the community he founded, I am corrected and referred to the historical personage. And when I then ask how these two—the objectivity of the community and the historically objective Jesus—can be the same, the answer is that the gospel address, in which all these realities appear, is an eschatological promise and therefore beyond the divisions and incompletions of time,” (48).

In other words, Jesus really is present with the community gathered round him (and inseparably so). He is present with us as we are present with one another and yet as one who is distinct from our “one another”. And because the gospel is an eschatological (a present reality with a future fulfillment) proclamation and promise these two realities (Jesus’ presence in the objective community and his own historically objective body) must be held in tension.

This is helpful for me at least because I am often left feeling as if Jesus doesn’t really bother with us. The historical disconnect between Jesus’ life 2000 years ago and our life today is a real disconnect and yet there is something truer still, so that we can proclaim Christ’s presence with us. Christ is truly present with us as we bother with one another and allow others to bother with us. Christ is truly present with us as we eat the bread and drink the wine and as we are washed in the waters of baptism.


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