The Revelation of God
Today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. When he taught in the synagogue they were all astounded at his teaching and then he cast out unclean spirits and again the people were amazed. They were amazed because in his teaching and his ability to confront demons they recognized God. This is the first time that Jesus appeared in public and revealed his divine nature, which was symbolized for the writer of Mark in Jesus’ ability to cast out unclean spirits. This was truly an epiphany – a time when God is suddenly perceived to be present.
Jesus IS the revelation of God – he is what God looks like when God becomes human. He is also an example of what humans look like when they become divine. When God became human God took on a human body with a biological gender and so we always to refer to Jesus as ‘he’. God incarnate is male. This is something of a stumbling block for many women and some men, but given the society in which God chose to incarnate, a divine woman would not have lasted three months let alone the three years that Jesus ministered before his death.
For Christians, Jesus the Word, is the revelation of God, but he is not the only one. God is also revealed in Holy Scripture, the written Word of God, and in Creation, the manifested word of God. One of the debates that goes on in some Christian circles is whether God’s revelation is completed or is continuing. In other words whether there are new things to be discovered about God and the way God lives in the world or whether it is all already said and we just have to rediscover it for ourselves. If we limit God’s revelation to the life of Jesus or to Holy Scripture then it is clearly complete. Jesus is no longer living among us and the Bible has been written. But is God revealed in Creation, which includes us humans… and in the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the breath of God, that Person of the Trinity who is constantly moving, who is the expression of God’s self-giving love constantly in motion between the Persons of the Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals God to us through our reading of Scripture, through our apprehension of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, and through our experience of Spirit moving in Creation and in each other in the community of faith we call the Church.
We don’t get to listen to Jesus reading the Scriptures and talking about them firsthand, so we cannot be astounded at his teaching, but the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst to interpret for us. So when we read the Bible, when we listen to it and are open to what God has to tell us, it is not the same as reading a novel or a history book because it is a three way conversation; the written Word, the Holy Spirit, and us. When we read the Scriptures and are open to God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit is there to act as an interpreter, bringing us ongoing revelation.
Of course, there is a danger. That is that we will mistake our own ego voice for the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is particularly likely when we are new to the spiritual life and have not yet learned to open our ears to God’s quiet voice. It is also a pitfall when we have been practicing a spiritual discipline for a while and think that we are doing a pretty good job of it. Pride gets in the way of our hearing clearly. That’s where our faith community comes in. Not only can we support one another in listening for God and recognizing her when she peeps round the corner but we can also help in discernment. We can help each other to distinguish the Holy Spirit from other voices.
When I was a young adult, I was very concerned to know what God wanted me to do with my life. I didn’t know what career to follow, where to live, whether to pursue academic study – all the questions of a twenty year old student. I met someone who really impressed me with her spirituality and I asked this question – How can I know God’s will for my life? Her answer was simple. ‘Read the Bible”.
I found this remarkably unhelpful. There is no career section in the Bible.
Today I understand her answer better but it is still not an answer for the question I was asking. The Bible is not a fortune telling device where you open to a page and it magically gives you the answer you need. ‘Caro, go to America and there you will find a small church in the middle of a field…’ is not a Scriptural passage. I know that sometimes it happens, you open the Bible and there is a verse which suddenly makes sense in a new way – because the Holy Spirit brings it to your attention.
Often we ask the wrong questions and then feel frustrated when we don’t get the answers. This comes from our very human tendency to think that everything rotates around us when in fact everything is God and we are created and born on the breath of God, out of God’s great self-giving love. God’s revelation is not about us but about God, about the very essence of God-ness. As human beings who have the ability to love and to consciously give ourselves in love we have the unique ability to be part of God’s self-revelation. Jesus is the great example of a human who revealed God, but we too in our own way join in the great cycle of love, praise, adoration and thanksgiving which is the true language of God.
The more we do so, the more attuned we become to the language of Spirit. The more we perceive God in our midst. The more we become who we were meant to be. Because we were created by the Word of God we are at our very best when we are praising and worshipping God however we imagine him and her. When we stop thinking about us and think more and more about God, then we start to connect with our own true nature.
The more we are in touch with our God given selves as the daughters and sons of God, the more we are able to perceive God’s will because our wills are attuned to God. There is not a huge gap between us and God – we are designed to be an expression of God and as we get closer to that possibility the more the choices we make come form a centered place of oneness with the divine.
I’m not sure if it was Augustine or Martin Luther who said, “Love God and do as you please”. Whoever it was it is a wonderful possibility. As we love God and live in that self-giving love, praise, adoration and thanksgiving which is the revelation of God and the life of God, the more what pleases us is also what pleases God. That was perhaps the most profound teaching of Jesus’ life death and resurrection – in all things he sought to do what pleased God. And in doing so he revealed God to humanity.
As the people of God we too are called to reveal God, to be Word-bearers to each other. The UTO boxes are a great reminder to be thankful. The more we are thankful not for what we have but for who God is, the more we will become clear channels for God’s revelation.
The more we at St Benedict’s encourage one another to give thanks, to appreciate all that God has given us in one another and in this community, as we become a place of praise and of grace, and as we replace negativity with true joy, the more God will be palpably present in our midst.