Sabbatical Diary – July 22

What are you doing here …

God said to Elijah, “Go and stand on the mount.”  In my imagination I’ve always thought that to be at the mouth of the cave, and reading further on confirms that. It makes sense. It is a wonderful vantage point. Elijah can see everything that passes by: up and down, side to side.

At the moment I’m sitting at the mouth of a different cave. I’m at the corner of High and Cornmarket Streets. I can left down St. Aldates. I can look further left up The High, and a bit right down The High. Further right, and I see down Cornmarket.

On the wind there is a tuba playing. Then the voice of an accordion passed by. An amplified guitar yields the familiar riffs of “Stairway to Heaven.”  Coincidence?  Maybe not.  A voice enters the odd symphony singing “Stand by Me.”

When Elijah went to the mouth of the cave, he turned his back on his place of safety and shelter. Perhaps, too, he turned his back on that which was dark and closed off. He moved closer to light, but also the risk of the edge. He moved closer, as well, to forces that were powerful (earthquake, fire, wind), but not God. Near the edge, in the light, in shear silence: God.

Turning our backs to caves of our lives is no less risky for us than for Elijah.  Moving from the depth our our accustomed space out to its edge makes us vulnerable to all sorts of powerful forces.  We like our safe places. That is, after all, why they are safe to us.  But it seems that God constantly invites us to the edge.  Could it be because at the edge one finds light, or an openning up to greater vistas, or the opportunity at the edge to recognize God’s presence in a way we are unable or unwilling to perceive in our respective caves?

Most of the people that are passing by are doing so in silence. I don’t know who they are.  Perhaps they are students, or academics, or clerks, or musician, or politically left or right.  Perhaps those passing by are straight or gay or still working those things out.  Perhaps they are in great health, or bearing up under challenges I cannot know.

They are passing by the mouth of my present cave.  Are they God?  The Scriptures say they are created in the image and likeness of God. Our theology invites us to see the face of Christ in each of them.

What if I, what if you, focused on nothing else but the Christ in them.  What if I, and you, engaged each person passing by the mouth of our caves by engaging the Christ in them?  I should think that it would be a transformative thing: personally, communally, politically, globally. “What if,” seems to yield to “Why aren’t,” but that implies a judgment I want to avoid.  So, back around we come to God’s question:

What are you doing here …

********  The Sabbatical Diary is published with gratitude and appreciation to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, Michigan for granting me sabbatical time and funding, and to the Graduate Theological Foundation, Oxford Foundation Fellowship, which made access to Oxford University for reading and research possible.