A wise teacher told his disciples that the wonder and mystery of God are too vast for words. So they asked him, “Then why do you talk about God at all?” He shrugged and answered: “Why does a bird sing?”
The novelist Nikos Kazantzakis wrote: “I said to the almond tree, ‘Sister, speak to me of God.’ And the almond tree blossomed.”
During the Epiphany season at First Baptist Church of Asheville, we are exploring the theme “We are Witnesses.” We are pondering how to pay attention to the signs of God’s presence and how to live in such a way that we draw other people’s attention to what we have seen, heard, and felt. In my view, all authentic speaking about God comes from deep within who we are and what we have experienced. A witness blossoms with the life that is in her; he sings the song he has been given to sing. Witnesses tell what they have seen, heard and felt.
In a brief series of posts over the next several days, I will write about dimensions of faith which my experience has convinced me are true. What follows, then, are part of my “witness,” my song, about God and life.
First, all human beings are created in God’s image. The Bible makes that claim, of course, and I have also seen the truth of it written on the faces of boys and girls, men and women. Many years ago, that remarkable Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, was in downtown Louisville, at an intersection I know well from my years in seminary in that town, watching people hurry by. He later wrote in his journal:
In Louisville, on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. I have the immense joy of being human, a member of the race in which God himself became incarnate. The sorrows and stupidities of the human condition can no longer overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
I have caught glimpses of that radiance which God has given to all of us, and, though Merton says there is no way, I keep looking for ways and words to help us see that we are shining with the image of God. Here’s my witness: beyond and behind whatever brokenness and shadows human beings bear, all of them, all of us, have an undying dignity and an imperishable worth.