God Works Through the Physical
“The weight, the contour, the feeling of the Bible across my lap connected me in yet another way with the Word. This is in part why I love a physical, hard copy of the Bible. I can not only see it, but I can feel the soft, onion-skin pages, feel the supple cover, hear the barely audible crumple as the pages are turned. I can connect with it in powerful ways.” My wife, Melba, shared this with me after worship today. And I don't mind saying, I share her sentiments. Yes, we both own Kindles. Yes, we both have Bible Apps on our iPhones, I have a copy of Logos Bible software, and on and on. Yet, when our senses are stimulated in powerful, tangible ways, we feel a deeper connection to God.
This led me down a winding trail of reflection. Reflection on how God uses His creation to connect with us in deep, life altering ways.
Immediately, my thoughts drifted back to Sunday gatherings...
The low rumble of conversations in the Commons, the smell of fresh brewed coffee wafting across and down the halls, people embracing in ways that only your favorite Aunt would dare squeeze you. And the first-time guests with that almost lost look, trying to get their bearings and secretly hoping for a kind word and simple smile to connect with. God uses His people as a vessel for His grace. God also uses the little, black, roasted coffee bean, ground and brewed to perfection, to connect perfect strangers in deep conversation.
Then the music lifts, prompting the people to dislodge from their new-found connections, from their re-connections amidst His people and move to that simple space. The space that could be a basketball court on one day, an orchestral rehearsal center the next, a pre-school auditorium on one day and a square dance hall the next. Yet that space now corrals the people of God as they gather to unite in the presence of God, to connect with Him in often life-altering ways so that they can leave lifting high the name of Jesus.
In the midst of the well-crafted music reverberating off the walls, the people sing, the melodies weave their voices together as they praise their Savior, as they call on His name as did many before them. The notes rise high to the ears of the Creator and He smiles, knowing that even in their own attempts to praise and worship Him, they are still far from perfection. Still, they use their voices, they play their instruments, they blend the music in ways unimaginable to the regular folks because that is how God has gifted them. He uses the music we hear with our ears, the notes on the page we see with our eyes, the vibration of the bass and drums in our chest as the music crescendos to heaven, the mind-blowing technology to connect us again with Him.
But I could not rest there amongst the people and the music. I recalled more of the tangible, earthly elements that God has given us. The earthly elements He uses to connect with us. Simple bread, simple wine: the things great dinners start out with! The things we share as we sit along the dinner tables, sharing laughter and conversations with our friends and families. Yet in this time, through this simple bread,in this simple wine, Jesus shows up. We break the bread. The hard crust gives way to reveal the soft flesh of the bread. The aroma engulfs our nostrils. We place it in our mouth and the richness of its’ sponginess brings our senses alive. Our ears perk up as we hear the beaker clink against the chalice, as we hear the wine splash into the cup. The server hands the cup to us. We gaze into the sanguine liquid and breathe in the grape scent that finishes with that slight tickle of the nose. Our lips touch the cup and the wine flows onto our palate, an unmistakable the taste. But this experience is much more than a common meal shared amongst our friends. It is the meal Jesus instituted on the night He was betrayed. Through this time around His table, Jesus shows up in some mysterious ways. He shows up in the bread and wine and we partake of His body, broken on the cross for us. And His blood, poured out, flowing down, staining the very dirt of the ground, poured out for our sins. And through this time of total sensory contact, we receive Jesus and His forgiveness. Together. As His people.
Water. The life-giving liquid that comprises 98% of our earthly bodies. God uses this liquid that He has covered a large portion of His earth with to connect us to Jesus. You see, through the simple element of water, coupled with the word in baptism, we receive a new identity in Christ Jesus. Water and the word in baptism make us sons and daughters of God. The water doesn't just wash us on the outside, the act of baptism washes our souls clean. We are buried in death with Christ and rise with Him in resurrection, in newness of life. Water. The simple element that connects us to Jesus for eternity.
You see, our God is a God who connects with us in real, tangible ways. He is not some far-off grandfatherly type that on good days we might think of when we smell some Old Spice, pass by the elder care facilities or hear a rendition of The Old Rugged Cross. You see, He is a God who uses His created means to connect with us humans in powerful ways that we can relate to.
After all... He became flesh and dwelt among us! How much more relatable can you get?
Written by: Curtiss Lanham | Associate Pastor