Len Sweet tells this story about Karl Barth, the famous Swiss theologian. It may be a true story or an evangelized version. Karl Barth was riding a streetcar in his home city of Basel, Switzerland. He took a seat next to a tourist, and the two men started chatting with one another. “Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired.

“Yes,” said the tourist.” “Is there anything you would particularly like to see in the city?” asked Barth. “Yes,” said the tourist, “I would like to meet the famous Swiss theologian, Karl Barth,” was the reply. “Do you know him, asked the tourist?” Barth answered, “As a matter of fact, I do know him. I give him a shave every morning “

The tourist got off the streetcar at the next stop, quite delighted with himself. He went back to his hotel and told everyone, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today!”

Len Sweet tells the story to make the point that we, like the disciples who were on the way to Emmaus, often fail to recognize Jesus when he is among us. It’s about recognition (or the lack of it).

We meet people who know him, who love him and revel in his grace. We read their books and listen to their podcasts. Sometimes we even get to meet them. We are content to say, ‘I met your evangelical superhero here today.’ The crazy irony is the missed opportunity for meeting Jesus living with us and within us.

  • Submitted by Fr. Joseph Dovari