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Sit before the Mystery

by davesandel on March 8th, 2021

Monday, March 8, 2021                     (today’s lectionary)

Sit before the Mystery

Elisha sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let Naaman come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.” Elisha told Naaman, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” Naaman was angry, but his servants convinced him, and when he plunged into the Jordan seven times, his flesh became once again like the flesh of a little child. And he was clean.

Naaman brought big gifts, hoping to buy or bribe his way to healing. Instead, Elisha offered him only the mercy of God, “not strained, dropping as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” God required only obedience, and money didn’t matter. With the encouragement of his servants, accustomed as they were to following orders, Naaman obeyed. God’s healing caressed his skin and carried his soul into heights of gratitude and joy. In so many ways that day, Naaman’s life was changed forever.

Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.

I imagine Naaman ached to relive the day of his healing once he returned to Damascus. After that moment of color, vision and the certain presence of God, what else could he live for?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. I am so thirsty for you, all day long my tears have been my food, and others say, “Where is your God?”

But Jesus carries us into the presence of God and tells us with certainty, “Do not be afraid.” Although we must wait for the coming of God in our own moments of clarity, healing and vision, we do know God is willing.

The coming into Mary and then into the world of Jesus as God, is what we call the Incarnation. Matthew Lee Anderson of Baylor University has a few things to say about this (in First Things March 2021, “The Biblical Case Against IVF.”

The Incarnation reveals that human flesh can be united with God without being destroyed.

 In the Incarnation we learn that human flesh’s orientation to God is not limited by capabilities or consciousness.

 Our flesh is capable of bearing within it the empowering presence of God himself, as the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts.

 And not just my flesh, but also all my neighbors, because they too are heirs to the Incarnation:

The reverence that is owed Christ is due in an analogous way to our neighbor, the worship we owe the one who is the Image incarnate engenders a respect for those created in the image of God.

This kind of respect exists from a distance, but it is most satisfying when we experience it close-up. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Still, when again I find myself alone, I wonder just how to wait for God’s gift of presence. Until I am overwhelmed, I usually feel underwhelmed. I know there is no hurrying God, he is always the boss of me, but I try anyway.

Like all of us, Matthew Lee Anderson struggles to find his limits.

The Incarnation is shrouded in mystery. We can press too far in our inquiries into the nature of mystery of the Word made flesh. He calls us to say “yes to eternal life in him, not to investigate, test, and weigh his offer … walking according to the Imago Dei means honoring the limits that have been imposed upon us.

What was Jesus thinking when he spoke as he did to his friends and neighbors in Nazareth? I can’t help but think of Jack Nicholson on the witness stand in A Few Good Men telling Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Jesus said to his hometown crowd, “No prophet is accepted in his native place.” Then in fury his neighbors in Nazareth drove him out of town and tried to throw him off the cliff. But he passed back through their midst and went away.

Both stories, from the Old Testament and the New, leave God shrouded in mystery, but this is Mystery I rejoice to sit before all my life, waiting for what God has promised us he will give.

(2 Kings 5, Psalm 42, Psalm 130, Luke 4)

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