We began the year with a short sermon series called “20:20 Vision”, and I began that series by quoting the ancient philosopher Heraclitus: “Change is the one constant in life”. Still, never in my wildest dreams in January did I ever imagine the scale of change that is currently fostered on us today!
Nonetheless, what the Scriptures said to us back in January remain true today. In the opening sermon, I asked: “how can we navigate change, especially when we feel unsettled?” In that series, I encouraged us as a church to move on in maturity, and join in God’s mission. That is still the encouragement of the Scriptures to us today. We don’t stop growing in maturity and proclaiming the mystery of Christ in a Covid-19 age; if anything, we should be even more determined to do so. But before we do all that, the Scriptures reminded us we must do something even more foundational – we must anchor ourselves in Christ.
And so this season, especially this week, as we head into Good Friday and Easter – I want to encourage all of us to just slow down and do precisely that. As you know, we are currently working our way through the psalms. And one verse that has jumped out at me from the psalms is Psalm 27:4 –
“One thing I ask of from the LORD,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.”
To gaze on the beauty of the LORD. That was David’s desire. But what is especially striking is the environment in which he longed for this. He didn’t long to do so merely in times of tranquility. In the verses immediately preceding verse 4 – the wicked are advancing against him to devour him, war might break out – but he longs still to know God and to see his beauty. Similarly, in Isaiah 33:17, where there is a threat from outside against God’s people, God reassures them about the nature of his kingly rule with these amazing words: “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty”.
In this season, whether we are on the frontlines or not, perhaps this is the word the Lord wants to say to us. If we have naturally activist personalities, we find it difficult to just sit down and so try to lose ourselves in busyness – attending all sorts of webinars, tinkering with mini-projects, trying to engage in “personal development”. Certainly as a pastor, I do sometimes feel the pull to be seen doing something, or otherwise be accused of being lazy or dispensable! Or if we are more chill, we might find ourselves being lost in Netflix and internet browsing all day.
But what if God is using this time to invite us to “gaze on his beauty”? What if he’s deliberately taking us out of comfort zone by removing our typical distractions, and asking us to take stock of our relationship with him, to sit with ourselves and ask where we are, spiritually speaking? What if he is stretching us beyond our limits as we find ourselves working exhausting hours, to ask us where our dependence lies? Perhaps we don’t want to peer too deeply into ourselves, because we’re afraid of what we find there. We know ourselves, and we know there are places where no one else knows, but which look ugly. But perhaps God is now inviting us to a place where we have to live by faith – to come to terms with our lack of loveliness, and so have to trust his word entirely when he says he treats us according to his grace.
Cultivating our relationship with God takes time – it can’t be accomplished on the run. But this Holy Week, let us make a start. Meditate again on Jesus. Watch him enter Jerusalem as a king, but on a donkey. See him share his final supper with his closest friends, and think about John’s words in 13:1 – “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Go to the Garden of Gethsemane with him, and see his “sweat” like “drops of blood falling to the ground” as he cries out to the Father and submits to his will. And consider Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). Ask the Lord to reveal himself truly to you as you ponder his Word and meet him there. Let us long for Christ this season.
Continuing to keep you in my prayers,