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January 22, 2016

An episode of a Father Brown mystery came to mind when I read through the Scripture texts for the third Sunday after Epiphany.[1] G.K. Chesterton’s character, Inspector Valentine, is desperate to find Father Brown, who suddenly disappeared at the same time as another person. The Inspector goes to St. Mary’s, Fr. Brown’s parish church, to see if he is there. Frustrated by not being able to find him, he looks up at the cross and pleads with God: “Listen, I don’t do this prayer thing often—not ever.   But I’ve got a bit of a situation. If you do exist, maybe you could see your way to sending me a sign?” Hearing nothing, he looks down, disappointed, and is about to leave when he hears a noise coming from under his feet. He throws the rug aside and discovers a hatch leading to an underground tunnel, where he sees Father Brown banging on a pipe, hoping that someone will hear.

We can identify with the inspector. During those times when we can’t find God, we feel like shouting and pleading: “Are you there God? Do you care about me? Will you help me? Please help me . . .” This week’s Scripture texts are examples of how God shows himself to us.

Psalm 19 tells us that God reveals himself in the natural world. C.S. Lewis described the psalm as “the greatest poem in the Psalter, and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”(Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 63).  David says “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and “the work of his hands.” The heavens “give dramatic evidence of his existence, his power, his love, his care.” (Note, Life Application Bible, NIV, p. 919). Paul echoes David’s declaration in concluding that God has revealed himself to everyone through his creation: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).

The Old Testament text reminds us that God revealed himself to Moses and gave us the Scriptures as proof of his existence and his care and concern for us: “They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered—men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively.” (Nehemiah 8:1b-3, Good News Translation).

Finally, Luke tells us that Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah in the synagogue when he read from Isaiah (“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners. . . “) and declared to them that he was the Messiah: “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.” (Luke 4: 21, Good News Translation, emphasis added). The author of Hebrews notes “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . “ (Hebrews 1:1,2).

There are many evidences of God in nature, history, science and other academic disciplines, as well as in Scripture and human experience. Many books have been written on the subject. One of my favorites is a slim volume by Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe (InterVarsityPress, 1968).  Mr. Little notes that “God has taken the initiative, throughout history, to communicate to man. His fullest revelation has been his invasion into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. Here in terms of human personality that we can understand, he lived among us . . . Other evidence for the reality of God’s existence is his clear presence in the lives of men and women today.” (p. 13). To me, the existence of God is most compelling by the evidence of him in the lives of people.

Little recounts a story told by Ernest Gordon, in his Valley of the Kwai. Gordon was among the prisoners held by the Japanese during World War II on the Malay Peninsula; he says that they were practically reduced to animal behavior, stealing food from each other. Gordon, and many of the men were skeptics or unbelievers, but someone thought it would be a good idea to read the New Testament.   Little comments that this group of “scrounging, clawing humans was transformed into a community of love [which] is a touching and powerful story that demonstrates clearly the reality of God in Jesus Christ . . . There is, then, evidence from creation, history and contemporary life that there is a God and that this God can be known in personal experience.” (Little, Know Why You Believe, p.14).

He has shown us. Look around.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

 

 

 

 

[1] Psalm 19:1-6; Nehemiah 8:1-3; 5-6; 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:16-30.

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