Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. – Jeremiah 10:10

It is the King of kings and Lord of lords alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. – 1 Timothy 6:15-16

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 107:1-9; 1 Samuel 3,4; Luke 24:13-27

Today, what comes to mind is the hymn "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise." These verses from 1 Timothy, along with 1 Timothy 1:17, which was part of our second reading in worship last Sunday, paint a picture of God as simultaneously transcendent and immanent. God is both far off, beyond human comprehension, and mysterious, and intimately involved in human life, bringing true power for abundant life. The verses that highlight God's distance from us are surrounded and interwoven with affirmations that God is also closer than we can imagine, and bound up with our own very being.

So what does this mean? I see it playing out in the stories in all the scriptures today. Jeremiah 10 and 1 Samuel 4 focus on God's people having a unique identity as people of the one true, living God; they are surrounded by other influences, but are called to discern and walk only in God's ways. Psalm 107 has a repeating pattern of identifying different metaphors for times when we need God, and proclaiming that God is big enough to be there, and small enough to notice and care and help in each individual situation. 1 Timothy urges the reader to stay faithful in the midst of confusing developments. And Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, in his first resurrection appearance in Luke, has the whole truth and is willing to share it, but also points out how hard it is for his disciples to hear and see. Likewise, 1 Samuel 3 shows the boy Samuel being called by God multiple times, but not "getting it" until his mentor Eli helps him. (And then Eli doesn't understand God's direction until Samuel helps him.)

For our place and time, I find grace in these stories. It's a challenge as Christians, as pastors or church leaders, even just as human beings, to find a way through life that sticks close to truth, honors God, and brings life for myself and others. But it's always been that way. God keeps calling, leading, providing, connecting. So we can keep listening, praying, helping, and trying. We will have trouble seeing and hearing, let alone understanding. We will not know everything about the whole journey. But we can move ahead in trust. We can say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Or, as the hymn says, "All praise we would render; O help us to see!"

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