Monday, February 29, 2016

Athirst Is My Soul

But his servants came up and reasoned with him. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.  1 Kings 5:13-14

Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God? Psalm 42:3

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.  Luke 4:28-30


For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes. (Dag Hammarskjöld)

When and where shall we go to behold the face of God?

The people in Nazareth were expecting Elijah to return in splendor.  Maybe he would come back on a chariot down from the skies.  They did not want the simple son of the local carpenter to assume the mantle of prophet.  Yet Luke invokes the image of Elijah curing Naaman by ordinarily washing in the ordinary waters of the Jordan River. While Elijah performed miracles, he was not a flashy prophet.  Jesus is warning the people of Nazareth that he will not be either.  Yet the people are not ready to accept Jesus as their savior. 

The references to Elijah and Elisha serve several purposes in this episode: they emphasize Luke’s portrait of Jesus as a prophet like Elijah and Elisha; they help to explain why the initial admiration of the people turns to rejection; and they provide the scriptural justification for the future Christian mission to the Gentiles.[i]

Just as the people are not ready to accept Jesus, Jesus is not ready to confront his death at their hands (yet).  While they are trying to kill him, Jesus did something miraculous.  He just walked through them and calmly escaped. 

We do not need to climb a mountain and experience the Transfiguration to behold the face of God.  The face of God is right here in the faces of our family, our neighbors, and all who we encounter in the daily work.  Maybe the face of God is in the bus driver or the person talking loudly on a mobile phone in the next seat.  Maybe the face of God is the person singing off-key in the pew next to you.  Maybe the face of God is in the neighborhood bully. 

We expect to encounter the face of God in church.  Yet think of all the famous saints who experienced the “dark night of the soul.”  They prayed and prayed to encounter God.  Yet they did not think they did.  However, they kept working…anyway. 

For Naaman, it was hard to follow through and expect miraculous results.  For the people of Nazareth, it was hard to accept the message from the carpenter’s son.  We want the extraordinary.  Yet God is right there in the ordinary world of all that has been and all that will be.


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