Where have you seen God this week?
I saw God today. I wasn’t expecting to. Our King recently died and our whole country is in chaos. We don’t know what is next for us. I had been in despair lately, afraid, feeling sorry for myself, feeling inadequate. I had been fasting and praying, waiting for some sign from God who seemed so silent and far away.
Suddenly I felt this powerful presence with me. A brightness filled the room where I was. I saw angels and heard their heavenly singing. The earth began to shake and my room began to shudder and I felt weak in the knees with fear and awe. The angels sang of God who was so different from human beings, so powerful, so much more than we could imagine. Their voices touched me so deeply I began to shed tears.
I felt inadequate, small and I said so. I felt unworthy and unprepared. So I just blurted it, that I am a man of unclean lips, that I have said things I regretted, that I have told lies, that I have participated in gossip, that I didn’t have the words to express my feelings at that moment, that I didn’t have the words to express all the wrong things I’d said. And I went on that I am not the exception. This is the same for the community I live in, none of us is known for our eloquence or truth-speaking. It really surprised me to get a glimpse of God, even though I am small and full of sin.
My encounter with God didn’t leave me unchanged. An angel flew to me, a seraph, which means “fiery one.” The fiery one brought a burning coal from the sacrificial fire on the altar and touched it to my lips. I was not afraid. I knew that fire was cleansing. Sure enough, after that my lips burned only to tell the people what God had to say. After that, I stayed quiet enough to hear what God was saying. After that, I chose my words carefully, knowing that what I said reflected on the Holy One. My words could give God glory and lift me up, as well, or it could blaspheme God and hurt the people, including myself. I had to tell the truth after that and tell it bluntly. This was my call, this is what God sent me to do, and I could do nothing else.
We saw God today. We weren’t expecting to. We were afraid. We were living like slaves to our passions. We were focused on our daily needs, making enough money to live, eating, partying, impressing each other. Some of us felt we were better than others. We kept putting each other down to make ourselves feel better.
But we gathered in the community of believers and we were singing and praying. We read again the story of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt, and we realized that we were not only freed then, but we were being freed now, to see each other as fully human. We were to participate in the freeing of our brothers and sisters that we had enslaved in our own ideas of who was good enough for God to love. We finally started to get it, that God has enough love to free all of us, and that we are all adopted into God’s family. We saw each other with new eyes. We saw a vision of all God’s people, all God’s creation coming together, freed, loved, and empowered for service. We also saw this wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, that we not only inherit God’s glory and all the good things about being a beloved child of God, but we also inherit a share of suffering. It wouldn’t be easy going forward. We would take risks. We would upset the order of things and be made to suffer for breaking the rules of this world. But that’s exactly what Jesus freed us to do, and we could do nothing else.
I saw God today. I wasn’t expecting to. I thought to be a good Jew, I just needed to follow the rules or to understand better. I thought I could intellectualize it. So I went to see Jesus, because I was curious about his miracles and some of the things it had been reported that he said. Some of the other Pharisees were complaining about him and making threats against him. But I had been feeling unsettled. My religious rituals weren’t giving me any satisfaction anymore. I felt like something important was missing. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt lost. So I went looking. I hoped that Jesus would perform a miracle for me. I thought it might help me believe more strongly. I wanted a sign, something I could see and experience to convince me. But Jesus said that in order to see we had be born anew. That just sounded weird to me. I didn’t want to start over. Who would want to be a little kid again? I guess I must have misunderstood, because he explained he meant to look in a different way and live in a different way, start fresh with new eyes for what is holy and loving and life-giving in this world and beyond.
He spoke of God’s Spirit, moving and powerful, brushing up against us, pushing us, and bringing us God’s word, indicating God’s presence, a true miracle of power in our midst. That God would come to someone as dense and afraid and small as me, it’s true, it was a miracle. And that God would not come to tell us how bad we are, to condemn us, but to set us free, to be in relationship with God, Creator, Jesus, one of us, and the Holy Spirit, our advocate, the breath of God, Sophia Wisdom.
And for God to set us free to be in relationship with each other! I didn’t realize until later when I stood at the foot of the cross where he hung dying, I, a Pharisee, important and knowledgeable, found myself equal to the women there at the cross, loved, forgiven, clueless, afraid. We were his friends and family, although we were unworthy. Still he gave himself for us.
When I went to Jesus at night, I thought I was taking the risk. I thought someone might find out and turn me in. But later I realized that he was taking the real risk. He didn’t have to meet me for a conversation. He didn’t have to come into this world. But there was no other way to communicate the mystery of God, so far away and glorious and powerful, and yet right here, accessible, conversing in quiet, patience late into the evening. And not just teaching, but lovingly explaining, and finally sending out. Now that you know how much God loves you, how will your life be different? Now that you know that God’s Spirit is shared with you, how will you live God’s vision? How will you use the power God has given you? How will you live the freedom you have been given?
I saw God today. I didn’t expect to. I met with someone who is sick and homebound, yet she knows that life is more than our bodies. She hopes and longs for and works for the vision God has lifted up. She supports neighbors that are hurting. She makes phone calls and sends cards to people who are sick. She keeps up the connections. I saw God in her, suffering, yet moving with the Spirit. I was changed, inspired, shaken, and I had to lay aside my complaining and short-sightedness and open my eyes to God all around us and within us and I had to go and be different. I had to get to work on the Kingdom. I could do nothing else.
We saw God today, soldiers on the battlefield looked into each other’s eyes and wondered why we can’t live in peace.
We saw God today, as we picked up litter and shook our heads at our warming planet.
We saw God today, when we attempted to communicate with someone who’s language is different from our own and found we are all just people trying to understand and be understood.
We saw God today, when we sat in silence and listened to our heart, and let our wounds connect us with others.
We saw God today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or any of the other names you could use to describe the undescribeable who is in every breath, every relationship, who is love, who is all hope, who is around and within and between, alpha and omega, God most high and most near. We are changed. We are sent out in freedom. We heard God ask who would go to those who are trapped. We said, “Here we are, send us.”