The three of us bounced down the popular trail in Waterton Canyon on our mountain bikes, racing the South Platte River as it descended out of the mountains. It was a glorious evening with the sun hanging just above the rugged hogback, its last shards of light reflecting on the river. Suddenly a bald eagle, wings spread muscling the wind, swooped down near the surface and glided upstream, hunting.
All three of us clamped on our brakes and skidded to a halt in the middle of the road. The eagle danced on the wind just above the current and then tilted up and came to rest on a rock, where it stood turning its head from side to side surveying its kingdom.
Steve grabbed his camera and began shooting. The eagle preened and stretched its wings as if attending a royal photo shoot. Brendan, my son, and I, holding our breath, loyal peasants that we are, watched his Highness. Time slowed, then stopped. It was one of those magical moments where minutes stretched into hours and heaven seemed to touch earth.
Then other hikers and bikers broke the spell, heedless to the grand show the eagle was putting on just fifty yards away. Not ready for it to end, I stepped out into the dirt road, putting my finger to my lips and pointing to the eagle, hoping they too could see what I was seeing.
Their responses dumbfounded me.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Peter 2:11-3:7
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Ezekiel 47:1-48:35: This is one of the most beautiful sections of Ezekiel. God gives Ezekiel a vision of how God will heal his land and his people in some future time to come. That vision is of a full, powerful, and ever-deepening river that Ezekiel can step in, be healed by, but not be master of.
This passage is one that modern Jews hold tightly to. Their move back to and resettlement of Palestine in the 1940s is based in part on this streams in the desert prophesy. Moreover, it became their motivation to irrigate and plant much of their desert home. The results in many places are fantastic.
Also, there is a large group of Jews, mainly Orthodox, who are waiting for God to give them a signal to rebuild the Temple. Some call it the Third Temple Movement.
Whether these Jews are right or wrong in their literal understanding of this passage, I find it inspiring that they expect God to do what he says he will do. That is not so often true in my life.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Maybe I’m a bumpkin, too easily impressed. Maybe they were jaded and calloused adrenaline junkies. Maybe eagles specifically, and nature in general, aren’t all that big of a deal anymore compared to 3D computer generated images. Whatever the reason, as I stopped the people on the road to show them the eagle, I expected them to be, like me, awe-struck. Most weren’t.
One or two stood transfixed. A couple more stopped and looked and then moved on. More yet only slowed down and glanced. Many, too many, followed my finger point, saw the eagle, gave me a puzzled if not angry look and never even slowed down. It made me mad. I wanted to grab them by the ears and shake them. I didn’t.
The eagle must have found us similarly boring because it soon lifted off and soared into the deepening sky.
As I finished my ride, it dawned on me (remember I’m a pastor and I can’t help it that my brain works this way) that my eagle sighting was eerily similar to how many of us respond to actual God-sightings.
Most of us who believe in God want to grab those who don’t believe by the ears and shake them. We get angry when they can’t see God, or do see God but don’t value God. God is so good and so full of grace and so powerful I desperately want others to see God and know God and stand in loving awe of him.
When they don’t respond according to our expectations, however, we do grab them by the ears, turning their heads by force. This seldom works. It’s like shining a bright light in their eyes. They just shut them tighter. They are busy or hurt or distracted. They are breathless from the journey, panting for their lives, little knowing the One who loves them is riding along side. Is it my job to knock them off their bikes?
I think not. Peter tells us not to demand that others see God and believe but simply point him out, with our deeds, “that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God.” Peter says our lives–our response to authority, our relationships with one another, and even our refusal to return evil for evil–are pictures that are worth a thousand words. And yes, we use words too.
“Look, look at that,” we can say.
But it is not ours to force a response. Maybe we are not so much to debate the truth of God’s existence and love but rather live in front of others as if it is true.
My eagle-sighting made me realize that my job is first to love and enjoy God and while doing so, point God out to others. I recently saw a video (below) that is a living example of this. Instead of making people come to their church and hear about how great God is, they went to the food court in the mall and in flash mob style sang “The Hallelujah Chorus.” They loved God in the mall. Can you imagine?
What if each of us–and our churches–went out into our neighborhoods, and pointed to and loved God in such a way that a few would look and notice and begin to love and enjoy God too? Some would simply ride by. But others might just join us. And Who knows? Maybe all of them would notice something, just enough to pique their attention later.
The bad news is that often it is impossible to love anything, much less God, until you see someone else doing so. The good news is that it is possible to love something, even God, when you see someone else doing so. “To this you were called,” Peter tells us. That is good news indeed.
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