The readings for Sunday are available here.
Is it possible, do you think…to see the Face of God?
This coming Sunday, we will see the writer of Matthew’s gospel, write of Jesus’ invitation to us:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest….for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls.”Matthew 11:28-30
I believe that we can see God’s face. Our Christian tradition is filled with examples of turning to God in times of trouble, in times of uncertainty, and when feeling lost or in despair. But what exactly does that mean? How exactly do we find God in the midst of these seemingly crazy times? And what if I don’t want to see, or I’m afraid of what I’ll find?
I believe that in a way, we can see God’s face. Personally, I can always find God’s face and touch in nature. As well, I suspect we can all relate easily to the kind and thoughtful actions of those near to us, our family and friends; those who come to offer aid, shelter and support to us and those in need.
I also believe though, that we are being invited to see the face of God, in those who challenge us; those who we find annoying at times, those who might inspire fear in us, those not particularly pretty to look at, the ones we feel uncomfortable around…the ones we’re not sure how to deal with. These people upset our pre-conceived ideas about what is right, and what is wrong…about who is good and who is bad; people like us, and those people not like us; those who challenge our way of thinking, and those who do not.
We tend to turn our face away from those people and situations that are difficult and challenging. We make assumptions and wipe our hands of them. Yes, seeing the face of God here is much more difficult. For in order to truly see the Face of God, we need to be prepared to change something within ourselves, to put aside our judgements about those who are different than us, who challenge our comfortable world view. How easy it can be to turn our face away from that invitation to step outside of our comfort zone. But isn’t that what Jesus spent his life inviting us to do? Showing us by example how to truly see the Face of God, not only in our communities of faith, in those we minister to and in those we love; but especially in those we avoid, in the distressing disguise of the poor, and in the pressing needs of our world.
There was a German American artist, born in 1901 named Fritz Eichenberg, who worked primarily as an illustrator using woodcuts. I am very partial to his iconic Christ of the Breadlines, in which Jesus is depicted in the midst of a row of raggedly clothed people, huddled with heads mostly bowed, humbly awaiting temporary relief from their hunger and anxiety. All of them are together, homeless, wanderers, belonging to no one and nowhere. Jesus is simply one of them, and together they want the same thing – rest, fulfillment and an end to suffering.
Eichenberg’s works are frequently dark and difficult to look at. This particular wood cut has one source of light, and that comes from it’s central figure…Jesus. It is the only light that illuminates all the other figures in the picture, and because of this light, we are able to see them as they are, in the company of Jesus.
Each time I see it, I am reminded that seeing the Face of God, and being in the presence of God, can happen when we least expect it to. It reminds me of my own hidden prejudices that can create a barrier around me, and prevent me from the possibility of encountering God. In those times that can be incredibly challenging and upsetting…in those people who we’d rather turn away from…Jesus extends an invitation to us to see the Face of God in everything and everyone; to take the risk and not turn away from challenge and brokenness, and in so doing…catch a glimpse of the beauty there.
We are invited to trust that if we do look, and if we stay…we will see the Face of God.