13 October 2009

Images and Idols Aside...

Ray Bagnuolo
Stated Supply Pastor and Head of Staff
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House

Psalm 97, v. 6-7

From the lectionary reading for Monday, October 12, 2009

The heavens proclaim [God’s] righteousness;

and all the peoples behold [God’s] glory.

All worshipers of images are put to shame,

those who make their boast in worthless idols;

all gods bow down before [the true God].

Idols and images? “Worthless.” I know, sound like one of those commercials, and neither have ever brought me closer to God or truth or courage.

Instead, as the author suggests, the times that God has been most present are when the “boasts” evaporate and the image of God breaks through. Such manifestations are truly great moments of wonder, humility, and courage.

It was all there at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House during our celebration of “Coming Out Sunday.” Gathered friends of the church community were invited to tell their “coming out” stories as part of worship. Three spoke with eloquence and from deeply God-given places.

One very brave woman entered a place of transparency in her comments that can only occur when self has been set aside. She was in “God’s glory” of the psalmist; equal parts an amazing and terrifying transformation. She spoke from beyond herself and of a family that had been challenged by her coming out. She referred to the Scriptures, recalling how Jesus stated he had come to separate son from father, mother from daughter; she added sister from sister, reflecting on a visit with her sister that had ended just hours before. She closed by saying that what Jesus had come to do, he had done in her life. It was a profound moment.

As each speaker showed us, such courage of God’s glory occurs when we abandon ourselves to God, losing self in the process and touching the Creator and eternity all at once. It is experiencing a glancing touch of the Power that is so great, even Moses was only permitted to see it from a distance. We, too, saw it from a distance on Sunday. And, as much as it was unexpected, it was also a reminder that we live and work in the presence of God at all times, too often restricted by assorted images and idols. In our midst are those who regularly set aside illusion and bless us with their courage to let the world see who they really are, and in so doing, allowing the rest of us to see God in a different and life-changing way.

Our movement for the end to marginalization in this church is a call to end the worthless imagery and idolatry that has confused too many into believing silence or ambivalence is ever an honest approach in the face of others’ suffering or the witness to God’s wonderfully diverse creation.

How grateful we can be to those who continue the radical love of setting aside self, so that the shining light of God’s presence makes it through, all images and idols aside.

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