RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE HAVE KISSED
I was asked by the vicar of my parish in London, Revd Jose Varughese, to give a message on the Chrsitmas day 2008. I told the Chisrtmas story at the Christmas day service using the 25 words in St. John’s gospel chapter 1 Vs.14, “The word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” I developled the theme that Christmas is the fulfilment of a promise, an obedience, and a gift of God’s unconditional love; I went on to say, quoting Psalm 85: 10, that in the incarantion, at Christmas, ‘Mercy and truth have met together’ and in Jesus ‘Righteousness and peace have kissed.’ I also realised the simple everyday practical theology of incarantion when I was reading the following story, ‘The Geese and and the snowstrom,’ which was sent to me at around Christmas time by a friend , Mr. Abraham Alex of Trivandrum-founder director of ‘Abundant life of India.’
[There was once a man who did not believe in either the virgin birth of Christ or the spiritual meaning behind it, and was sceptical about God. He and his family lived in a farming community in North America. His wife was a devout believer and diligently raised her children in the faith. He sometimes gave her a hard time about her belief and mocked her religious observances. "It's all nonsense, -- why would God lower himself and become a human like us? It's such a ridiculous story," he said.
One snowy day, she and the children left for church while he stayed at home. After they had departed, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax with a glass of wine before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thud on the window pane, something hitting against the window…And, still another thud and another. He looked outs but could not see anything. So he went outside for a better view. In the field near his house he saw, of all the strangest things, a flock of geese. They were apparently flying to look for a warmer climate down south on their winter migration, but they had been caught in the snowstorm. The storm had become too blinding and violent for the geese to fly or see their way. They were stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter, unable to do more than flutter their wings and fly in aimless circles. He had compassion for them and wanted to help them. He thought to himself, the barn would be a great place for them to stay. It is warm with all the stored hey and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he opened the barn doors for them.
He waited, watching them, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. Nevertheless, they did not notice the open barn doors or realized what it could mean for them. He moved closer toward them to get their attention, but they just moved away from him out of fear. He went into the house and came back with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread trail to the barn. They still did not catch on. Starting to get frustrated, he went over and tried to shoo them toward the barn. They panicked and scattered into every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where there was warmth, safety, and shelter. Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, "Why don't they follow me? Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm? How can I possibly get them into one place to save He thought for a moment and realized that they just would not follow a human. He said to himself, "How can I possibly save them? The only way would be for me to become like those geese. If only I could become like one of them. Then I could save them. They would follow me and I would lead them to safety." At that moment, he stopped and considered what he had said. The words reverberated in his mind: If only I could become like one of them, then I could save them. He immediately went inside the house, tore open a goose feather quilt and stuck the feathers on his hooded-winter coat with some glue and went outside, flipped, flapped and fluttered his feathery coat around like a goose, and the geese slowly followed him to the barn. He was greatly pleased with himself. While all these were going on in the farm his wife and children were praying in the nearby church and worshipping a God that he did not believe in. Then he understood the meaning of God becoming man and God's love for mankind and all his creation. He fell on his knees and repented.]
I am grateful to this unknown story teller for this story; it simplifies the theology of incarnation in a way that everyone can understand. This story is far more important than any lengthy sermon on Christmas. We are not gods, we only can know about God through our God-given human nature. I cannot see God as fish, tortoise or boar, but anything is possible for God, he created them all. Pilgrimage to God is only through pilgrimage to man, and to meet God and His truth, we must first meet man in his essence. Our real experience of God is our experience of Jesus, we know God because of Jesus; Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life (John14: 6). The New testament testifies that God is like Jesus ‘No one has ever seen God at anytime. The only begotten son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’ (John 1: 18).
From the very beginning, human beings have sought to understand and described various aspects of God by singling them out and giving them form, and life. They looked for God in the wind, fire, burning bush, parting of the sea and water. Many gods and godesses of Hindusim are representd in the powers of nature like vayu (air), varuna (water), Agni (fire), and aditya (Sun). They also believe in ten incaranations of Lord Vishnu. In Psalm 85 the psalmist offers us four qualities of God as mercy, truth, righteousness and peace and these qualities take a poetic form: “Mercy and truth have met together, righteouness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth. And righteousness shall look down from heaven.”
Psalmist’s imagination gave shape to characteristics of the nature of God as virtues that we can recognise in man and appreciate. Bible personifies the wisdom of God, as in Proverbs 9, where she appears as a woman calling her hearers to join in her feast. Barbara Newman takes it further and offers an intriguing approach to these personified qualities of God in her erudite and provocative book, ‘God and the Goddesses.’ She observers that medival writers depicted eternal qualities of God as many daughters of God including: Lady Love, Lady Philosophy, and Dame Nature. These goddesses are not borrowed ideas from pagan mythology, but distinctive creations of the Christian imagination. As emanations of the Divine, mediators between God and man, and ravishing objects of identification and desire, these medieval goddesses widened Christendom's concept of God, introducing religious possibilities beyond the ambit of scholastic theology and bringing them to vibrant imaginative everyday life.
The first century Chrsitians had no problem in understanding the nature of God in Jesus, John hears Chrst saying, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John14: 9). Further John in his first epistle writes, ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, --- and heard we declare to you’ (1 John 1:1-3). How do we see the qualities of God in our own imaginations and in our daily routiens of our times? How do the infinite characteristics of God move, take form and manifest in our lives? In our daily living out of our desire to follow Christ, how do we see God taking shape around us and within us? If God is like Jesus our hearts can be at peace, we can assess their spiritual truth and strength by refrence to Jesus. Where do we witness the meeting places of mercy and truth, of peace and justice? God will find his way into us through His grace to be within us, provided we would allow him to do so, as the farmer in the story I sketeched. In this season of celebrating lent, let us become a meeting place for the qualities of God. Let us witness and work for the meeting of mercy and truth, justice and peace around us and within us.
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