We’re exploring the images of God in images. We’ll reflect on the metaphors God’s given us to understand who he is.
Jesus sat with his friends, enjoying a meal, conversation, maybe a little laughter. Suddenly, surprisingly, he did something no one in the room expected. He got up from the table, knelt on the floor and washed his friends’ filthy feet.
Imagine the scene. How would you have felt? What would you have thought?
Later, Jesus added words – powerful, perception altering words. Words that helped his friends understand the meaning of his actions. Words that corresponded with the service he’d given.
Would they have understood without the words? Or would they have internalized his intent without his action?
Every day Jesus-followers, normal people, pick up the basin and towel in a thousand different ways. We visit neighbors in hospitals, write checks to alleviate suffering, help children with homework, prepare meals for loved ones, carry boxes for friends, and more. Our small acts of service speak honest, generous truth. We reveal with our hands the character and purposes of God to those whom we serve.
What would’ve happened if Jesus never turned his feet toward Jerusalem? Would we know his story at all? Or what if Sister Teresa, the little nun of Loreto had accepted the first ‘no’ to her dream of ministry in Calcutta? What if William Wilberforce had resisted his concerns over slavery? Or if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had sat in a Birmingham Jail, considered his options, and chosen the quiet path of a corner church preacher?
Scripture is full of powerful metaphors that represent different aspects and actions of the God of the universe. For example, God as potter reminds me that God is skilled, creative, and in control. It shows me that God is forming and shaping who I am. You may see God through this metaphor quite differently, and that’s appropriate.
Jesus-narratives also represent different aspects and actions of God. Everything Jesus did reveals God, but each individual story, like a metaphor, provides only a glimpse into God who is so much greater than the story can reveal.
Yesterday morning, when I sat down to pray and read the text of Psalm 3, the first line caught me with unexpected force, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!” I immediately recalled an email I’d seen the previous evening. A friend from northern Virginia had related a story about one of her friends, a Mexican American woman who was hiding in her home with her children, praying no one would knock on her door.
I recognized with absolute clarity that God was inviting me to pray for this woman, her children, and so many others across our country. Now listen, this is not a political rant. This is about prayer and how we pray scripture for those in need.
While some friends and I were discussing a Jesus story, one among us described her perspective of God as a gracious guest who’d entered her messy home. We listened as she explored the metaphor. She saw Jesus present and completely unconcerned about the chaos that so embarrassed her. She experienced a freedom from shame and a joy in God’s acceptance of her, right where she was living.
That’s great stuff. Glory, really.
When I was a kid and my parents fought, I tried to disappear into the wall. I got pretty good at it. Later, when I entered the church, I learned the right social and political attitudes and beliefs of all committed Christians. I figured out a new way to disappear into the wall.
Invisibility and silence are great protectors for the vulnerable.
Eventually, I grew up.
You are a precious and unique child of God, created in his image, invited into his purposes. I know you know that, at least if you pause to think about it. But sometimes, we forget, don’t we? I mean, not on a cognitive level but perhaps on a gut or heart level.
Some of us look ahead into the year to come. We consider how we might want to live: What might I continue doing? What might I give up? What new thing might I begin?
Some call these New Year’s resolutions – simple declarations of our intent to live differently in the year to come than we’ve lived in the year passed.
Leadership gurus encouraged us to create personal mission statements, as well. These statements articulated who we are and guided how we would live. Our person mission statement would be a kind of lighthouse, leading us safely in and out of the harbor. The theory is that each person has a unique God created purpose and that joy and satisfaction comes in fulfilling our God ordained mission.
In other words; know who you are and do what you’re created for.