‘Stunning’…that’s the word to describe Lee’s faith. A youngish man, he sat in our lobby recently, smiling, trying to hold his cup of coffee. He was cold yellow from his jaundice due to kidney failure, most of his fingers are gone, now only small stumps remain. He was meant to be in the hospital in the palliative care ward but here he was in our lobby. We chatted and he shone with joy, delighting in the snow, the chance to hear about God, the opportunity to be with God’s people. No complaints, just gratitude. Stunning.
I felt the same way a few days ago when I read through Lamentations. The brutal tragedy of the song is heart-breaking. The beautiful city of Jerusalem now rubble, ash, smoke, and blood. The families are scattered, starved, captured, or killed. The city is ruined, the temple is derelict. The Lament rises like a chorus of deepest sorrow, groaning in the most minor of keys…and then you hear it…off in the distance – a soprano raised, singing a song of worship that doesn’t seem to belong. An aria being sung; a song from another world.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion’ says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3 v 22-24.) Stunning.
Everyone has their Lamentations, their broken walls. Not all as extreme as Lee or ancient Jerusalem but challenges nonetheless. Lee wanted to hear about God, the writer of Lamentations appealed to the character and essence of God. I believe this is so important. When people are standing in the rubble of their lives they don’t care about vision statements or missional priorities, they want to know ‘Is it true?’ ‘Is there hope?’ ‘What is God really like?… because right now my circumstances are battering me!’.
I believe we are to offer the song, the aria from another world. To be the voices of hope and Gospel that speak of a promise and beauty that does not quite seem to belong here. To describe and declare the perfections of God, the God who cannot be explained but who delights in being explored. To speak as loftily as we can about the Divine Life who is our LORD, to teach our people truth they will never hear anywhere else. To call our people to consider the mind shuddering wonders of Divine Aseity and Divine Simplicity and then to stare into this mystery until we have to look away because it hurts our eyes, it’s too bright, too beautiful. The magnificence and plentitude of God’s infinite perfections, God as Spirit, eternally transcendent, existing in unapproachable light forever delighting in His own inexhaustible goodness. We stare and our eyes hurt…as we behold this One we almost despair at His untouchable glory…and then we see Him, walking out of the light, God personified; Jesus.
Infinite becomes local, transcendent becomes immanent, Word becomes flesh. Stunning.
Lee, like the rest of us, needs to be reminded of this song, needs to learn new verse and melody often. The Life of this God distributed to us through word and worship, through bread and cup, through theology proper, and clumsy prayers. Stunning.