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Thoughts From Martin Copenhaver

Dear Friends,

This week’s “thought” expresses one of the repeated themes of the New Testament, even though the author uses an Old Testament verse as his starting point. Of course, since the entire Old Testament in some way points forward to Him, and the entire New Testament either points back to Him, or forward to His 2nd coming and eternal reign, it matters little!


This selection captures a theme I have spoken on often – the importance of Jesus in our understanding of God. It is by Martin Copenhaver, and comes from his devotional book, “The Gospel in Miniature.” Enjoy.

“For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night.” - from Exodus 40:34-38

“In this passage, the presence of God is described as a cloud. That image reminds me of a parishioner’s description of his concept of God as, “a sacred blur.”


When we recognize God in Jesus, however, that sacred blur is brought into stark, startling focus. We see what God is like and how we are to live in response to God’s claim on our lives. Some Christian traditions (including my own) often seem to speak more easily of God than of Jesus. Perhaps this stems from the difficulty we have in believing all that is claimed about Jesus.


But think in the opposite case. Our uneasiness with Jesus may not derive from our doubt that God was in Jesus in a unique way. Rather, our uneasiness may flow from our suspicion that it may be true after all. And if it’s true, then we must confront God and confront ourselves more fully – and who feels entirely prepared for that?

It can be easier, and perhaps less demanding, to think of God as something blurrier, like a cloud. When God has a human face, and lives the kind of life we do, we are given the opportunity – and the challenge – to see what a life claimed by God actually looks like.”

“Sweet and precious Lord, may we see in you both something of God and something of ourselves, so that your life might shape our own. Amen.”

It always struck me that most people I know (outside the Church) don’t tend to mind if I speak of “God” – using that generic term for the Divine. The problem often comes in (and I have seen this over and over) when I bring Jesus into the equation. Because Jesus (as I like to say) “puts a distinct face on the God they want to remain faceless.”


To bring Jesus to bear on a conversation about God means we are no longer talking about a Being (or higher power) that one can define any way they like, or any way they choose. By referencing Jesus, we immediately limit the field of options and are saying something about what we believe God is like. And that is how it should be, since Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His Being.”

Paul says the same thing in Colossians 1:18-20 where he not only tells us Christ is the head of the Church and is to have the supremacy in everything, but that “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him…” A chapter later Paul says, “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form…” (Colossians 2:9). In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus, for He is, “the exact representation of His being.” If you want to gain an understanding of what the God who is is like, go into the Gospels and look at how Jesus lived, loved, served, showed grace, extended compassion, bestowed mercy, and so forth. The Bible doesn’t just set Jesus forth as the One who saves us, it sets Him forth as the One who best helps us understand what God is like.


But that’s where the rub comes in. When you understand that Jesus (being one with the Father) displays God’s nature to us, you can no longer define God any way you choose. It limits the field of options. It says God is a certain way and wants us to understand Him in a certain way. And in a world that does not like restrictions on our multiplicity of choices and options, God’s unique presence imaged forth in Jesus (instead of the somewhat fog-like cloud) limits many of the possible options from the start.


It does (as Copenhaver writes) “challenge us to see what a life claimed by God actually looks like.” In fact, Jesus not only images forth what God is like to the world, He displays the divine image that God is seeking to restore in us day-by-day. And that can be scary to the un-Jesus-like parts of us that realize they must eventually be removed from us!

Yours in Christ, Pastor Jeff

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