The following is a special guest blog written by our own Sherman Morrison. When I read it, I knew it needed to be seen far and wide in our community, so I share it here with my thanks to Sherman.
WWJB – Where Would Jesus Be?
Do you remember how back in the 1990s it became popular among evangelical Christians to use
the acronym WWJD? Then somebody had the idea of bracelets and a lot of people were wearing
these WWJD bracelets. Do you remember what it stands for? Was it…
A. We Want Jelly Donuts
B. World Wide Joke Day
C. We Were Just Dancing
D. Why Waste Jack Daniel’s
E. What Would Jesus Do?
Of course the answer is E: What Would Jesus Do? And it really is a great way to remind
ourselves what we’re all supposed to be doing as Christians in this world – living out the
example that Christ set for us. But, while WWJD is great, it’s also just so… 90s. I want a new
acronym that really gets us thinking about being more like Christ. Instead of focusing on what
we’re actually doing at any given moment, as is important as that is, what if we also focused on
where we’re at, where we are or where we go. This new acronym is WWJB: Where Would Jesus
Be? And it’s a fascinating question to think about.
If Jesus were around today, where do you think he’d be spending his time? I don’t mean in what
part of the world. I mean, if Jesus had a day to spend in Keene, New Hampshire, without anyone
knowing who he was, where do you think Jesus would go? Where Would Jesus Be? WWJB.
Before I share with you where I think Jesus would be, let’s take a look in the New Testament to
see what clues there are to the mystery of WWJB.
One of the single most important passages from the scriptures that can help answer the WWJB
question is in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 34-40. And this is about the final
34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are
blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was
thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and
you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the
righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry
and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And
when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and
gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison
and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just
as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,
you did it to me.”
There’s the clearest answer of all in verse 40: Where Would Jesus Be? He would be with the
least of these. He would be with the poor, the sick, the needy, the addicted, the misfits, the
outcasts, the sinners, even the criminals. Here’s how I answer the question of WWJB in Keene
for a day:
9 AM – 10 AM: Walk in the woods out behind the Hannaford’s plaza and spend time
with the people living in tents and makeshift shelters.
10 AM – 11 AM: Drop in at the LifeArt Community Resource Center on Roxbury Street
and spend some time with the folks there.
11 AM – 12 Noon: Give a sincere thank you and two thumbs up to Monadnock Family
Services; Southwestern Community Services and Head Start; Keene Housing Authority;
Castle Center Adult Day Care; Monadnock Developmental Services; Cheshire Medical
Center and the many other medical and human service agencies and church mission
groups that do vital work on behalf of the least of these.
12 Noon – 5 PM: Visit as many inmates at the Cheshire County House of Corrections as
5 PM – 7 PM: Dinner at the Community Kitchen.
7 PM – 9 PM: Stop at the 100 Nights Shelter and see who needs an encouraging word.
Do you find anything surprising about this day long itinerary I’ve put together for an incognito
Jesus in Keene? I mean other than the fact that there is zero travel time built into the schedule
(but this is God we’re talking about here, so no worries there).
According to the schedule, Jesus spends an hour here and a couple hours there, but he spends
FIVE hours, all afternoon, at the county jail. Why is that?
Here’s the thing – the people who are at the Community Kitchen or the LifeArt Community
Resource Center or the Hundred Nights Shelter or any of the other places I mentioned that
provide services to people in need, they have the freedom to go to those places and get some
help. But there’s a whole group of people who don’t have that freedom because they’re in jail.
A character in one of Frederick Buechner’s novels said this: “To lend a hand to each other when
we’re falling down; perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end.” And this is the irony
inherent in the whole notion of jails and incarceration: The people who are sitting in that county
jail down on Route 101 are, for the most part, members of the greater Keene community. They
have fallen down, and some of them have fallen pretty hard. But instead of giving them a hand
up just when they need it most, we give them a smack down. We lock them up and we lock them
away. Why? I think as a society we do it because it’s easier than figuring out what it would really
take to actually help them, and of course some of them don’t even want to be helped. It’s easier
to call them criminals and just make them go away. Out of sight, out of mind. And if you don’t
think that’s true, then why doesn’t our church, this beacon of the light of Christ at the head of
Central Square, why doesn’t our church have a jail ministry? We do such a great job with
mission work throughout our community and even around the world in far-flung places. But
there’s a whole group of people just down the road who are truly the least of these; who are
deeply in need of love, compassion and support to turn their lives around.
I’m also not naively suggesting that society should do away with jails or punishment for crimes
committed. Being put in jail is like being given a really big time out – and for the most part the
people who wind up in jail need that big time out they’re getting. It’s the “out of sight, out of
mind” part of incarceration that bothers me. I think incarceration is an ideal time to offer love
and support to inmates who want to turn their lives around.
The life of our Lord Jesus Christ was one of reaching out to those in the need – the outcasts, the
marginalized, the misfits, and the sinners. There is no doubt in my mind that were Jesus to spend
a day in Keene, New Hampshire, he would spend a pretty big chunk of it at the county jail.
That’s where I think Jesus would be. WWJB.
by Sherman Morrison
About the Author
Chris Cornell, our Assistant Minister and Youth Minister, lives in Keene with his wife Tonya, kids Toby and Fiona, dog Erma and two cats Prince and Princess. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking and traveling.
Chris loves how ministry blurs the line between the church and the surrounding community. You are just as likely to find Chris in his office as you are to find him at the homeless shelter, at the local coffee shop, or just out and about town.
Chris is a native of Connecticut, but has lived in Keene on and off since 1999. He received his bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College in 2002, and his Masters of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School in 2014. He has served the United Church of Christ in Keene since 2012.