From a Bishop's Desk

A series of opinion articles and essays from bishop's of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and ecumenical partners.


For Me, You Are Jesus

Jan 09, 2020
Love is being able to…look in the eyes of those who are in distress and say, ‘For me, you are Jesus.’ This is the beginning of every mission, this love with which I must go out and speak.”—Pope Francis

I spent time the other day with forty Jesuses. I had the holy privilege of being present at Trinity Lutheran Church, 100th Street and distributing the gifts which you had so generously shared (I cannot tell you how much you inspire me and bring joy to my heart with your generosity, dear people of God!) with some of the children from a detention center. Can you imagine what Christmas was like for them? In a strange country, separated from family, detained and scared, mostly feeling abandoned and alone. Maybe feeling unloved.

Can you imagine what that’s like? Well, I guess you can, in a way, because you reached out to ease that pain and loneliness with your gifts. In gathering on “El Día de los Reyes Magos,” (I’ve been practicing!), the children heard the story of the visit of the magi and interacted with Pastor Arias on the meaning of that event in Jesus’ life for us. We then sung some songs in Spanish, taught to us and led by Pastor Neumark on guitar. And then, the moment the kids had been waiting for. Tentatively, patiently, they waited in line while the “elves” found gifts appropriate to the child. They then carefully carried the gifts back to their seats and, only when given permission did they rip off the wrapping paper to see what was underneath.

Use your imagination again. In the midst of a bleak existence, someone has thought of you. Someone who doesn’t even know you! Love expressed in scooters and Spiderman toys and Play-doh and handmade quilts. For the first time that afternoon, and maybe for longer than that, there were smiles on the children’s faces. I told the children people from throughout our Church cared about them, prayed for them and loved them. The smiles were not just because they had a gift but also because someone had let them know they were special, that they mattered.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25). You looked in the eyes of those who are in distress and you said, “For me, you are Jesus.” The other day, Jesus in the bodies and hearts and smiles of many children received your gifts. My friends, I witnessed this miracle of grace! Thank you for your love and generosity. And God bless you.

In Christ,
Bishop Egensteiner