Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar….
Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. . . . .
Psalm 139:1, 6-9
I love Psalm 139 – all of it, not just the portion above. I love it because it reassures me that all of me is known and loved by God… I might as well give up trying to clean up, excuse, or justify myself, for God knows me and is with me, always. In this is freedom and grace. Thanks be to God!
Notice, though, that the psalm isn’t just thanks for God’s presence…No, it speaks at some length to efforts to avoid this presence… Where can I flee from your spirit?! Flee?!! The psalmist speaks of fleeing, when most of us speak of drawing nearer to God?? Does that strike you as odd?
Nadia Bolz-Weber tells a story in her new book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People, that I think helps here. Here’s what she says:
“I recently was asked by an earnest young seminarian during a Q&A, ‘Pastor Nadia, what do you do personally to get closer to God?’ Before I even realized I was saying it, I replied, ‘What? Nothing. Sounds like a horrible idea to me, trying to get closer to God.’ Half the time I wish God would leave me alone. Getting closer to God might mean getting told to love someone I don’t even like, or to give away even more of my money. It might mean letting some idea or dream that is dear to me get ripped away.”
Hmmmm. Yes. I know what she’s talking about here. Jesus may sometimes be depicted as a lamb, Lamb of God, but He also is depicted as a lion – the Lion of Judah.
In The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis gives us Aslan, a lion who is God-present, Jesus. In one scene, Susan asks Mrs. Beaver about Aslan, and she hears a bit more than she anticipated: “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Yes! The Beavers’ Aslan is the story we hear in November. In the Gospel readings we will travel a path that shows that walking with Jesus is anything but safe. … But it is Good! And we will celebrate that in this walk we find that we walk with the King… The King who loves us, is with us, is all powerful, and all giving. Christ the King is Good indeed! And we will sing with joy… “Soon and Very Soon, we are going to see the King. Hallelujah, Hallelujah! We’re going to see the King! No more crying there… No more dying there… Soon and very soon, we’re going to see the King.”
So it is quite a journey that we embark upon this month. We begin by celebrating the saints among us and those we have known; then join in for the book discussion on Accidental Saints; next we will experience the 12 Step Eucharist and celebrate Christ the King who reigns over all and is with us in those dark and hard places as well as the good and glorious ones; we give thanks – Thanksgiving for the blessings of family, friends, food, and our lives together; and we end the month by beginning the journey of Advent.
All of these things and so much more await us at St. Philip in-the-Field. So, Do not flee! November and the King are here…Come into His Presence with Thanksgiving!
And May the Blessings of the Lord be upon you now and always,