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Thursday, May 30, 2024

‘Heads up!’

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“When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:47-51 NRSVUE

We share life with a God who is actively at work in the world. The slippery slope of projecting human characteristics onto God can cost us precious discovery time when looking for signs of the Holy Spirit. Expecting God to behave like we behave subsequently transfixes our expectations when it comes to justice, creativity, vocation and relationships. Dreams deferred, centuries’ old oppression and unimaginable loss can lead us to think that God is done with us or done being God. Our Creator is an indescribable, ceaseless presence of good that churns wherever evil seeks to disrupt communal love. In Emilie Townes’ “Troubling in My Soul,” she writes, “God’s covenant with us overwhelms sepulchral faith operating on tiny motives, meager objectives, belittling goals, silly prejudices, and partial successes.” God is never done.

Heads up! There is more good in our path and more good to do in partnership with God. In this passage of John, we hear Jesus questioning the distance Nathanael’s imagination and belief could travel. Nathanael was greatly satisfied by the revelation of Jesus seeing inside his mind while he meditated. He had yet to fully comprehend who Jesus was or what more Jesus had instore. We are no different. Nathanael was a thinking man who had unknowingly been seen by the Incomparable Seer. The description of him (“an Israelite in whom there is no deceit”) leads us to believe he was also a man mindful of his walk. Sometimes those who journey heavily in thought need to be surprised by the unthinkable. Such surprises can build or stretch faith. Jesus amazed Nathanael and exhorted him not to let his amazement clip the wings of his expectations. God is never done.

Jesus encourages us to be on the lookout for God’s supernatural imprint. It may come in an unexpected opportunity to serve, a necessary conflict, tender touch, captivating sunset, the innocent face of a child or a delightful breeze during a hot flash. There is no adequate calculation of God’s appearing. The sacred text tells of a confident Jesus that gives his new friend a “Heads up!” There is always more of God’s spirit to experience on this side. Harry Belafonte offered these words in 1945 to the New York Times, “You can cage the singer but not the song.” The Song that is God resounds throughout the world. I pray we will be uncaged singers.

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