Prince of tides
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Peter is speaking,
"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though Pilate had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this ...
"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."
Before Peter spoke his listeners knew nothing, now they know everything. All they need to know is before them this very moment. This is the moment of which Brutus spoke:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)
We talk of making choices every day, that we are "made up" of our choices. What I do is who I am. I want to be filled with God's spirit every morning, and I invite him into my mind over and over again.
But this moment is different. This is when I hear God's voice clearly that I have never heard till now, and he is calling me. Me, particularly. It's the moment James Joyce called "epiphany," when heaven comes down to earth. And if I want it to, if I invite it in ... if I say "yes", then glory fills my soul.
In the abrasive film julien Donkey-boy, Werner Herzog and his family decide to entertain themselves by visiting a black gospel meeting. Julien is surprised by God in this tourist-moment. In the midst of his schizophrenic life, in the chaos of his family he hears God speak to him. He knows he is being loved. His eyes fill up with tears. What does he do now?
Anyone who has fought the desire to walk down a church aisle to say "yes" to a preacher's invitation knows just what I'm talking about. Every part of me is in conflict - my body, my emotions, my thoughts. Preachers, of course, can be manipulative and melodramatic. But I don't even hear the preacher. My ears are deaf to the songs that call me, my eyes wide shut to the beckoning arms of men. I really do only have eyes for Jesus. There is no one but just the two of us right now.
I can't swallow, I can't think, I have this moment between breaths to decide whether to let God love me. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us ..." (1 John 4:10). Regardless of how I go, after this the choices are a lot easier. But this one right now, this one turns in my stomach, tears at my skin, rips me up and down and breaks me into a thousand pieces.
Try turning around sometime. Notice how impossible it is to see what you were just seeing a second ago. Walk a few steps, and notice now how quickly you move away from where you were, just a second ago. In no time your whole world changes.
God never leaves me, never abandons me. But I can sure walk away from him. In this moment the apostle Peter's words beckon me, invite me, love me, carry me. What do I say? It's my turn to be known by God and feel his touch. What do I do?
I want times of refreshing, Lord. I want to turn from my own ways, which might not seem so wicked to me ... but they are mine, not yours. I want you.