Tag Archives: beauty

And Hath with His Hand

[I’m finally returning to my writing challenge!  My Internet access was down for a couple of days, so I randomly selected a verse the old-fashioned way – with a real, solid, three-dimensional Bible and a quick pointing hand…]

Does God have a mouth? Does God have a hand? …Does God have a face?

1 Kings 8:14-15

And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood:

And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it…”.

The human body is a beautiful and marvelous thing. A thing because each human body has physical shape and form, it is an object of flesh that exists in the world. And, yet, not a thing, and much more than a thing, because each human body is created by God in order to be a beloved creature of both flesh and spirit. Therefore, in grammatical terms, we should think of the human body, not so much as an object, but, rather, as a subject. The human body is subject to nature – and also to the human person. Above all, the human body, being created lovingly and purposefully by God, for God, is subject to God.

Okay… Maybe that’s a bit confusing. But, often, it is confusing to consider the human body in the light of the Christian faith. The confusion comes, most strongly, when we think that the body is sinful. The body is not sinful. Nothing created by God is sinful. Trees, birds, water, stars – none of these are sinful.

What is sin?

Sin is not imperfection. If that were so, then the person with the most imperfect body, one that contains genetic defect, say, and is severely crippled and weak, would be the most sinful. And the person with the most nearly perfect body would be the least sinful. And we all know that that’s not true.

Sin is also not bodily desire. The body craves and desires food – rightly so, for the body needs food in order to survive, and God did not create our bodies so that we would starve them to death. We also bodily desire sleep when we are tired and a good washing when we are dirty. All good stuff. The only bodily desires that are sinful are those that are self-centered. Yes, eating and sleeping are about self-preservation – but a kind of self-preservation that God desires. Imagine, for example, if we were locked in a room with one another, with no escape and with nothing to eat for days on end. We would, naturally, be very hungry and desire to eat something, maybe anything – maybe even one another! But, God certainly would not want us to kill each other in order that we may eat. Healthy bodily desires that turn toward selfishness, toward greed, gluttony, lust, toward actions at the expense of others – these are not God-centered desires but, rather, self-centered and, so, sinful.

For, sin is about the human will, not the human body.

Do we will what God wills? Or do we will only what we will, even if that goes against God Our Creator?

As the Baltimore Catechism states, we are created by God to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with God forever in the next. It is for the purpose of this knowing God, loving God, and serving God that God created us – body and soul. With our mouths and with our hands, with our ears and with our feet, and also, first, with our brains, we communicate with God by receiving and understanding God’s will – and then doing it. We can help feed the hungry who have no food with the bread in our own hands. We can lead the lost or the homeless who desire shelter with our feet. We can listen to those who are bereft and desire comfort with our ears and speak of God’s love and mercy to them with our mouths. We can do these things with our bodies – when our hearts and minds will to do so. If our hearts and minds are in union with God, then we will bodily love one another as God loves us.

Almighty God, who is Infinite and Eternal, the Creator and Master of the Universe, does not have bodily shape and form. God is spirit. God is not physical and, therefore, able to be broken down into parts, able to die. Therefore, it is wrong to say that God has a physical mouth or a physical hand. Or that God has a physical face.

And, yet…

God chose to become one of us.

The Word of God, which is not thought in a fleshly brain or spoken from a fleshly mouth, was made flesh. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Incarnate, made flesh, made one of us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. So, although it may not be proper to say that God has a face, that God has a mouth and hands, because of Christ, because of the Incarnation,  God spoke with a human mouth and worked with human hands… God laughed, wept, and smiled with a human face. And when Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he was speaking of the profoundly intimate connection and union that God has with each and every human being through Christ, Our Lord.

When we wash the dirty face of a poor and orphaned child with our own hands, it is God working through us. We, with our own freewill, choose freely to cooperate with God’s will. To co-operate. And our hands, although they are not truly Jesus’s hands, are like his hands, are like the hands with which God gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and bread to the multitudes. Then, we are truly like Christ – we are real Christians.

And, most profoundly and awesomely, when we wash that helpless child’s face… we’re washing the face of Jesus, the face through which God smiled.

Christ Jesus, who was physically thirsty and tired, desired water to drink from the Samaritan’s well. Christ Jesus, who was physically exhausted and weak, desired bodily assistance to carry his cross to Golgotha. And Christ Jesus, who began his earthly life as a helpless little baby, desired and needed to be physically taken care of, dependent on others for every thing of survival.

So, yes, let us think of God having a face, and mouth, and hands… they are yours… they are theirs…… they are his.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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And Ye Would Not

It ain’t always pretty.

Matthew 23:37

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Love doesn’t always look like a fluffy little bunny or a bouquet of pretty flowers. Sometimes, love comes as a heavy burden, or an injection of medicine, or a strong arm that knocks you to the ground just in time. Jesus is like this.

We often like to think of the Resurrection only. We have images of Jesus looking all bright and shiny and handsome, smiling, with his arms open wide in welcome – setting aside images of Jesus stripped, beaten, bloodied, his arms forced apart and nailed to a wooden beam. We’ll think of Jesus during his earthly ministry with little children gathered at his feet and blind people being gently touched by his soft hand – and not think of the whip in the temple or the rough carpenter’s hands praying in agony.

I have even seen Crosses that bear upon them an image of the Resurrected Christ, fully clothed. What’s with that???risen-christ-on-cross

That moment in the Bible when Jesus beckons the little children to come to him – this is not a purely happy moment filled with pleasant niceties. It comes with a rebuke. The disciples want to shoo away the youngsters, who are generally seen as a distracting nuisance – but Jesus says, “No.” He goes against the grain, disrupts the general practice of the time, upsets social protocol, and gathers the children to him. In the divine eyes of Jesus, every human being is a child – His own beloved child, whom He wants to hold in His arms and love unconditionally. In our modern time, to the people who, perhaps, make children over-precious and nearly adore them, this makes perfect sense. Of course Jesus wants innocent and lovely children near him. But… Jesus also wants the outcast and reviled near him. Jesus lovingly wills to die next to two thieves being executed for their crimes. Do we think of that? This is true love of humanity.

Why, then, did Jesus drive the money changers out of the temple with a scourge that he made out of cords? (John 2:15) Why did he not have mercy and forgiveness upon them and just give them a big old hug? Jesus did have mercy and forgiveness upon them – he did what he did for love of them. He spoke to them in a language that they could understand about the wickedness of their acts and the dark path down which they were leading themselves and the people. This is a moment in the Bible when we can see Jesus as most obviously human – one of us. He is upset by the callous, unloving intentions and methods of the money changers, who are not interested in helping the people to be reconciled with God. Their interest is in making a personal financial profit from people’s desire for God, using the religious laws of the time to their self-centered advantage. This cannot stand. I’m thinking that Jesus is so filled with justified anger that he cannot humanly utter a pretty speech to sway them. This is the time for Jesus to use his muscles, muscles formed hard and strong from laboring in manual construction, and shake open the eyes of the drowsing, slap the petty and cruel upside the head, and zealously protect and cleanse the Sacred Place of his Father with a show of human force. I suppose that he could have turned all of the money changers into gnutes or rained fire and brimstone upon their heads – but, instead, he did what any one of us human beings could do… and, perhaps, should do: disrupt the status quo.

Nobody likes to be told that what he or she is doing is wrong, even when it is wrong. Nobody enjoys changing his or her comfortable life for a promised, but unseen, improvement. We are naturally drawn to the comfortable, the soft, the easy, the shiny, the entertaining and sensually pleasing – yet, we are supernaturally drawn to the truth, to true love, to God. There is nothing more sublime, perfectly beautiful, and fully pleasing than God and true relationship with God – but that relationship requires a disruption of physical comfort, self-centered desires, and mundane niceties… in order to truly love.

The Savior of the World cannot simply be an extraordinarily good man who sets a lasting example of kindness, patience, and a generous sharing of resources. The Savior of the World cannot merely come to make the world a prettier place – but to set it free from such a cheap desire. How else can God get through to us and break us from our habit of, and addiction to, self-centered pleasure? How else can God work with human hands, through all times and in all places, to lovingly hold the suffering and lead the wandering home? How else can God show us the fullness of what we human beings can be, except to become one of us and to give Himself so completely and utterly to us in unconditional love that he lets us torture and beat him, ridicule and reject him, and kill him like a common thief? The dead body of God-Incarnate hanging on a cross speaks more profoundly than any Sacred Book that could ever be written, more intimately than any lightning bolt Revelation from the sky, and more fully and truly than any radiant smile of the depths of divine love and how utterly God wants to gather us to Him.ChristCrucified-father-Barron

We stone prophets. That’s what we do. We “kill the messenger”. That’s what we do. God knows. And God loves us so much that He is willing to let us do that to Him. God loves us so much that He sends His Only Begotten Son to us – to do with what we will. Christ loves us so much that he is willing for us not to like him. He is willing for us to be annoyed with him, to mock him, to try to drive him over the edge of a cliff. He is willing for us to kill him, for he will do what he has come to do – he will love us. He will show us the way to deepest and truest joy, he will become the way. Jesus gives us the promise of things yet unseen and does not couch it in niceties. He gives his very body and blood for us to gnaw upon – and if we refuse to understand it, then he is willing to let us walk away. He will not force us to love him in return, he will not force us into his arms. But, he will weep for us, weeping tears of blood, and he will be vulnerable for us, pierced through in the excruciating pain of crucifixion. And the first sign of the veracity of his promise will be an empty tomb.

© 2015 Christina Chase

And Every Tree Therein

By the one who has created me, am I fulfilled.

Isaiah 44:23-24

Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

I did not make this beautiful Maple tree that stands amid the grasses, its secret roots buried in the earth, its winsome branches flourishing toward the sky. Nor do I make my home among its limbs, nor take my sustenance from its bark, nor slake my heated body within its shade. I gaze upon the loveliness of the tree, delighting in its shape and form and the myriad intricacies of its lush and verdant leafing, its dark and curving limbs sublime.

Perhaps I am the one who first caught it, as a seed, as it flew downward upon its single wing from the parent tree. Round and round it whirled, spinning like a dervish, mindless of its surroundings, its beauty embryonic, waiting to unfold. Perhaps I am the one who split open the earth with my fingers and tucked in the Maple seed, hoping for and envisioning the great unfurling growth to come. Perhaps, then, I feel a relationship, sense an ownership of this tree that has taken root in the spot that I chose. But, the tree is not owned, regardless of whatever documents or boundaries humans may draw up. The tree does not relate to me as owner, friend, or kin and owes me absolutely nothing. The parent tree itself has no further relationship, no more than any growing thing has with another. For neither the parent nor I brought the Maple into being.

This tree was first envisioned, its growth first optimistically planned, its beauty first enjoyed, by none other than the one who set the sun to shine and every star in the heavens. With a silent word and a motionless movement, this tree, those grasses, that cloud, these birds, this sky, this earth, and I were created from nothing; a spatial matter allowed to exist because it was willed to be, unfolding from density to diversity through the eons of newly recognized time, stopping for nothing and nobody. Until the day that I can see this tree is here. And as I gaze upon its loveliness and delight in the wonder of its dark and curving, its green and fluttering, its strong and delicate, its deep and reaching shape and form, time is not recognized nor are the boundaries and definitions that we humans draw up. There is beauty here, and life. A past, a present, and a future, here in this now that is eternal in this clear moment of seeing, this moment of awe.

I did not make you, beautiful tree. You were created by the one who is uncreated and your fulfillment is in your being just as you were created to be. Nothing less and nothing more will bring you greater worth. Your flesh may or may not be used for building shelter or burning heat; your flowing blood may or may not be sucked up, or drawn out and boiled down, for sweet eating. Yet, you will be you. Whether symmetrical or crooked by the situation of your growing, you were chosen to exist – you were loved into being by Being and, so, you are always beautiful in the very truth of your existence. Should I never have seen you, should no human eyes ever have rested upon your living form, your life would have been beheld by the Ever Living One, the one who delights most in you, and, therefore, you will always be fulfilled. For trees have not the legs with which to run away from the truth, nor the lips with which to deny reality… you are your endless song of praise and thanksgiving.

Not like me. With mind to wander and will to obscure, I wrench my roots from out of love and pull down my branches lest they reach for the unreachable. I claim that I am a realist, my feet firmly on the ground without my head in the clouds – but I am a fool. The truth is given me, ultimate reality is here – yet I too often refuse to receive, refuse to see, what is eternal, what is unseeable, what is the beauty of this tree.

 

© Christina Chase

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