May 18 2011

Seeing Jesus Everywhere

In the Old Testament there is a story where Moses is leading the Hebrews through the wilderness and they find themselves in great need of water to drink.  God tells Moses to strike a nearby rock with his staff.  Once he did out of the rock flowed life giving water. (See Exodus 17:1-7 for more details.)  In the New Testament we find the apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth and he reminds them of this same story but he adds a significant twist.

In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 he said “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”  Paul’s words are surprising because Jesus, as we know and understand him, was not present with Moses on that particular day.  It would be centuries before he would be born in the village of Bethlehem.  Still, Paul insists that Jesus was there, that he was the “rock” that provided life for the thirsty Hebrews.

Rob Bell, writing in his new book Love Wins, says “Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question: Where else has Christ been present?  When else?  With who else?  How else?”  Bell goes on to say, “Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.”

I suspect Bell is right.  The great apostle did not look at the world quite as literally as most of us do these days.  He was able to see Jesus in places where we do not recognize him.  Does that mean Paul was wrong or perhaps even crazy?  I don’t think so. This coming Sunday I’ll be preaching a message on Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8)   I cannot help but believe that Paul was able to see God in places we don’t because of the state of his heart or soul.  I also believe that Jesus’ words imply that as our own hearts are increasingly cleansed and purified that we will begin to see God in places we have not before.  Like Paul we can come to see Jesus everywhere—in the rocks and trees, in the person seeking a handout at the busy intersection, in the smile of a child, or perhaps even in the face staring back at us in the mirror.

Today my prayer is the words of the familiar hymn: “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”

–Chuck

(I took the two images above during my recent visit to the Falls of the Stony in Jefferson National Forest.  The bottom image is Upper Falls.)


May 8 2011

A Wonderful Day

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Yesterday I decided to check out a spot in Virginia I had heard about some time ago.  All I really knew was that there were three waterfalls on a short trail at this particular location.  This spot is less than an hour and a half from where I live but I had never been to it.  After an incredibly wonderful experience there I can only wonder why I did not go sooner.

Why do we tend to take for granted our local settings?  When I went to Hawaii last month I looked forward with great anticipation to photographing the waterfalls I would see there and yet there are some very nice waterfalls close by that I haven’t even visited.  Far too often we forget that there are natural treasures nearby if we will only take the time to visit them.

I suspect that my experience with the waterfalls has its parallels in the spiritual life.  We sometimes get to thinking that we can only encounter God at church, some special retreat or perhaps an inspirational concert.   We forget that He may be encountered anywhere and at any time.  It may be at church but it could just as well be in your own back yard.  It may happen at a nice retreat center somewhere but He may also make Himself known to you at a local park.  Sure God sometimes reveals Himself at inspirational meetings and concerts but He can also make Himself known through the singing birds outside your window or in a group of flowers in a nearby field.

In the Bible God makes Himself known in many different ways.  At times He was found in the clouds or in a fire.  He showed Himself to Moses in a burning bush and talked to Balaam through a donkey.  God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and to the apostle Paul through a vision.  Obviously God also revealed Himself through the giving of the Law, through the various prophets He raised up, and nowhere clearer than when He took on human flesh in Jesus Christ.  But the message is clear; God has, can and will reveal Himself in numerous different ways and we need to be open to His movements wherever we happen to be.

God seemed close yesterday when I visited the Upper, Middle and Lower falls of Stony Creek.  In the crested dwarf irises, bluets, star grass and lousewort flowers I beheld something of His glory.  It was one of those days when I was reminded that God is full of surprises and that one need not travel far to behold the beauty of Creation or the beauty of the Lord.  It was a wonderful day indeed.

–Chuck

(These are three images I took yesterday.  The top one is Upper Falls; the second one is Lower Falls.  The third image shows tiny flowers known as bluets.  The Falls of Stony Creek can be found in the Jefferson National Forest in southwestern Virginia.)