I was extremely taken up by the readings in the communion service this morning for in one people were in the presence of God and yet saw a mere man whilst in the other we had men and were invited to see God.
Let's unwrap this by starting with the Gospel passage first (Luke 4. 14 - 22):
"Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.
He began by saying to them,
‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.
So here we are, imagine the scenario before us for what we have is God's people (the Jews, the 'chosen' ones, call them what you will) and there, in their very midst is God made man - Jesus! And they not only missed it; but very soon after (if we were to read on from vv23 - 40 ) we find that it wasn't long before they were not only up in arms over Him and His words but were heading for a cliff to throw Him off!
Yes indeedy - God was in their midst and they missed Him!
Now compare this with the New Testament reading from 1 John (4.19 - 5.4):
"We love because he first loved us.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command:
anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
This is how we know that we love the children of God:
by loving God and carrying out his commands.
In fact, this is love for God:
to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the wo
rld, even our faith."
We love because he first loved us, or for those of you out there who think it's only 'theology' when it has proper 'theological' words, 'the ethical imperative is based upon the soteriological indicative!'
(Now we can all relax and consider what I'm writing to be proper!)
What this passage tells is that we only need to look at the human person before us to see the invisible God made visible and if we claim to love this invisible God - how on earth can we hate the image of him before us? How amazing that when we have mere mortals before us we can, if we look with right eyes and hearts) find the very God we love unveiled before us? How odd that the Jews in Nazareth had that same God incarnate and saw despicable (and church of the cliff-worthy) man!
The 1John passage is what the Church needs to hear, live and then, in those before them, see - it is what we are called to be: Inclusive and welcoming!
We need to work so that those who see in us the image of the invisible God made visible and we need to work to find the same in others; and this is not always an easy task for so many of us are unloveable!
So many of us are broken, flawed, disobedient, cruel, spiteful and condemnatory (I know - I've seen some of the letters that get written!) and even worse than those things listed - and yet we need to keep an eye open for the God revealed in the person before us. We need to be working to help others see the same in us and - if someone comes in to your church and reads the Isaiah 61 passage that Jesus did in our Gospel - don't panic, you'll recognise Him next time (and it won't be Him) so you can welcome them and seek the image of God in them (for they ain't God) - better still, no need to chuck him (or her) off a cliff.
Thank you for helping me see God made visible :-)