Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Hidden Face of God

We all have preconceived notions of what we mean when we use the term God. Whether they came from a temple, mosque, bible study or bull session, concepts have formed in our head what is meant when we speak the word "God." It is important that you understand what YOUR definition is. Is He Almighty? Merciful? Jealous and quick to anger? (see Old Testament) Or all these things and more? Do you fall back on, "God is love," and feel confident you have successfully answered the question? (if so, please define what love is) I'm not suggesting there is a correct answer, or even a better or worse answer, only that your answer is of vital importance. You can't get to the place you want to be if you don't know where you are.

Exodus 33:20 states; "Thou cannot see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." Yet, just a few verses before this (Exodus 33:11) we are told; "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." (see Genesis 32:30 as well) My point? Why let others define your relationship with God? One will tell you this, another will tell you that. And I am sure they mean well and are of good intention. Still, the fact remains they are describing THEIR experience of God, not yours. The intimacy of your relationship with God is yours to decide.

King David in the 2nd Psalm, verse 7 says; "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee." John 10:30 has Jesus stating, "I and my Father are one." (Personally, I think of this as a metaphor similar to what you would hear at a wedding; the preacher declares the two have become one. Of a certainty, John and Sally are still two distinct persons. It is their hearts, minds, and souls, that have been [theoretically] fused.) These are both powerful examples of how David and Jesus saw their relationship with God. Intimate in the extreme.

Rumi suggests: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." I wonder if we can't say the same about God.


  1. Wednesday, January 7, 2015
    Epiphany, the moon, and the stars within

    Moonset, Arlington House, Virginia www.stpaulsmemorialchurch.org/
    Photo by The Washington Post
    Not all stars are in the sky. Some are within us.

    The last few mornings, if you were up early enough, like I was, you would have seen the moon setting on the western horizon. The moon was nearly full, and rose in the east soon after sunset, and the moon gradually rose in the night sky, glowing white above us.

    As we slept, the moon arched toward the western sky horizon. Then the moon dimmed to orange as it sank in the western sky, glowing like the sunset of a few hours earlier, but not in a way that blinds us when we look into it.

    The moon is a reminder that the brightness of the sun is with us even in the darkness of the night. I’d like to think that is what Epiphany is about – a reminder that the Holy still glows even on these dark, dreary cold winter nights.

    You can’t look into the sun without blinding yourself. Sometimes the holy is like that, too. But you can look at the moon all night long if you like. Sometimes these fainter reminders of the holy are easier for us to see, too.

    In the Epiphany story from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12 we meet once again the magi as they follow the glow of a star to the crib of Jesus. Like watching the moon arching across the sky, they follow this star all night long.

    Let me point out a few details you might not have noticed in the story of the magi: The story does not tell us what the star looked like. It must have been a faint star indeed. I doubt it looked like the star streaking across the sky on Hallmark cards. Nowhere in the biblical story does it say anyone other than the magi saw the star. No one else sees it. Not Herod, not anyone in Jerusalem. Only these men, who like the moon, rise from the east.

    Maybe the star wasn’t in the sky at all. Maybe the star was glowing inside them. When magi first saw this star, they did not know where they were going, or how the journey would come out. But they followed it anyway.

    That is the definition of faith – following a star, going somewhere, and doing something, without being certain of the final destination. The magi were not the first to follow a star, and not the last. We too are called to follow the star glowing inside us.

    The wise men – the Magi – follow their star to the infant Jesus. They come to behold and honor the newborn king, and they discover that this king is like no other.

    He will grow to become a servant king with no throne, no scepter, no political power. He will wash the feet of his followers, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and share meals with saints and sinners alike.

    He will teach, he will pray, he will get frustrated and angry at the greed and narrowness of people. He will ultimately go to the Cross to show us that there is more to life than death – more to life than what we see now.

    As he walks among us, Jesus teaches really only one thing – that we should love God, and love each other, as God loves us. We are challenged to do just that, by giving life to God’s shalom and using our hands and feet to bring healing, peace and justice to the world around us. That is the star we are called to follow.

    Sometimes we only see the star in the moonlight, but we still can see the star.

    “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” (Isaiah 60:1)The Rev. James Richardson

  2. Beautiful, simply beautiful. Thank you so very much for sharing. Pat