Rest in Christ Reverend Stott – you have been a means of grace for many!
I have a prayer stand where I am learning to hunt. It’s elevated and beyond the senses of those who may stroll by on bike, car, or foot. I visit this location regularly as a farmer visits the soil. There is a pattern to my labors though. I just don’t close my eyes and draw an imaginary line from my concept of God to my concept of needs, and then shoot out words rapidly like an automated assembly line in hope they will correctly assemble for me the desires of my imagination.
No. I cannot hunt with my eyes wide shut, but nor can I see with my eyes wide open. There is an emptying and a filling that must occur. An apophatic prayer, the emptying of that which entangles and inhibits me as an intercessor, but also a kataphatic prayer, seeing through the lens of the Great Victory of God.
So, I close one eye and focus the other. Steadying my breathing. Concentrating on my environment. Waiting patiently to see that which is imagined become manifest in objective reality. Growing in courage to pull the trigger when I see it break through… BAM!
Veni Creator Spiritus, Come, Creator Spirit for with eyes wide open I am blinded by the glory of God and with eyes wide shut I miss the cries of the needy.
But don’t be mistaken. My prayer stand isn’t so much about hunting as it is about daily orienting myself to the hunt. A daily abiding in holy attentiveness to Him who prays for His Father’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
During this past week suffering and death have been ever before me: From a philosophy class I am taking on Suffering, Tragedy and the Christian Faith, to a Time article written by Rob Bell concerning him getting his call to be a pastor in the midst of severe headaches, to a guest lecturer in Chapel talking about growing up in the persecuted Church of Columbia, to filling out ACPE (Association of Clinical Pastoral Education) applications about my views of spiritual care and suffering, and last night hearing a friend’s testimony about God’s presence with him in the midst of his young wife’s death. These events bring me to today: the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the First day, and the eschatological eighth day… and then I’m reminded of the “reason for the season”, Epiphany – Christ being revealed as God in the Gospels… in the midst of suffering.
Before the Passion of Lent and the Resurrection of Easter comes the Epiphany of the B.C. proclamation in Isaiah 53, “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”
The picture and the Isaiah 53 passage above are an attempt to articulate the reality of suffering, tragedy, sin and death in light of the reality of Jesus as LORD. It attempts to show that the cross is not only a historical event, but it is also a reality of God’s cruciform love for the world. I remember Robert Mulholland saying in class, “The Cross is not just something Jesus DID, it is a revelation of WHO God is.” During the season of Epiphany we see Jesus transfigured before us as God: Healing diseases, exorcising demons, and raising the dead. We follow the reality of Jesus as God in Epiphany into the reality of Christ’s cruciform love revealed in the Passion of Lent.
Today is the Lord’s Day. Today is Epiphany. Today is also … my 28th birthday!
Whether we know our exact date of birth or not, all people have a day in which they were revealed to the world through their birth. My day came 28 years ago on a cold morning in northern Ohio. During the season of Epiphany we reflect on how Jesus Christ is revealed in the Gospels as LORD. What do the Gospels have to tell us about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth as his revelation to the world? What does Jesus’ birth narrative(s) tell us about our own birth?
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew tell us about the revelation of Jesus the Messiah from the onset of their narratives. After a genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry, Matthew 1:18 explicitly states, , “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” In Matthew chapter 1 we are told how the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth and in Matthew chapter 2 of the wise men traveling from the east as a result of a rising star of the newly born King of the Jews. Their response to King Herod for their coming, that “they may worship him.”
In the Gospel of Luke we have a more detailed account of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, and the accounts of the angels with the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna the prophet. These two Gospel accounts testify that the birth of Jesus was somehow different than my birth 28 years ago. And still, the birth is scandalously common: Jesus was born as an infant, from a woman, in a zip code, to parents. Unlike my birthday visitors of grandparents, relatives, and family friends, Jesus had angels, shepherds, wise men (kings?), and prophets testifying that the Messiah,called Emmanuel, “God With US” has been born. They testified with Simeon in Luke 2 that they, ”Have seen [God's] salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
But there is another birth that the Gospels attest to and which I am born (along with the great cloud of witnesses). This birth is revealed to the world through the sacrament of baptism which Christ initiated. In tomorrow’s post I will look at this birth from the Gospels of John and Mark.