Rev. Dr. Anna Verlee Copeland's Blog

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September 9 Post

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“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” -- Isaiah 53:2

There’s a handsome doll standing in the corner of my office. At about two feet high, head turned towards heaven and arms held high, there’s no mistaking that it’s supposed to be Jesus. Maybe the homespun robe and sandals give him away. Or perhaps it is the long, shoulder length, dark blonde curly hair, like that famous painting from my childhood.
I call him my Irish Jesus. He looks like my immigrant ancestors, peering out from black and white photos earlier in the last century. I would guess that most anybody I know would pick this handsome doll out of a line-up and say it’s Jesus, but think again. The prophet Isaiah said that when the Messiah would come, he would not be particularly good looking, that we should desire him. Strike one. This doll has fair skin, unlike the olive skin tones more common of people from the middle east. Strike 2. His hair is both curly and blonde, requiring some wild imagination. Having visited Israel, I suspect that Jesus might have had curly hair, but it could only have been dark brown. Strike 3, and Irish Jesus is out.
Years ago, I traveled to Guatemala on sabbatical, taking my 15-year-old son along. We went to language school, traveled the country and built houses for Habitat for Humanity. In one small village, one of the elders pulled me aside and summoned me into the corn stalk, dirt-floored home next to the new home we were building with him. He pointed to the only photo on the wall, that same Irish Jesus, who as it turned out, looked just like my son.
The elder wanted to know if my son could heal him. It was a touching moment, and while I made it clear that my long-haired son was in fact, not Jesus, the elder remained un-persuaded. I’d like to think it was because my son, now a hospice chaplain, acts like Jesus, always gifted by God with a loving heart. Or perhaps they mistook him because he was a hard worker, digging the foundation for their new home with a hoe. I hope it wasn’t because they too had come to see Jesus as Irish, for he was as surely one of them, as he is one of us.
It’s tempting to create this Jesus in our own image, as a reflection of who we are. What if instead of Jesus reflecting us, we reflect Jesus? That changes everything. Were we to look like Jesus, we wouldn’t look Irish or Ethiopian or Venezuelan or Norwegian or Guatemalan. We’d embody peace. We’d act like mercy. And whatever our shape, size, or color, we’d look like love.

Prayer: God, you made the heavens and earth and all that was, is, or ever will be. Create in us the shape of your love that uttered us, that others might recognize your face in us, and we in them. Amen

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland