This past Sunday I preached at one of the Columbia District churches. It was both Christ the King Sunday and the church’s observance of Thanksgiving. As we are about to enter into a new Christian year with Advent, I first want to reflect on Christ the King. We struggle with our desire for God to be both immanent and transendent. Our hearts desire a God who is closer to us than a best friend and yet bigger than any problem. The immancence of God versus the transcendence of God is a complicated conundrum. God’s immanence proclaims that God’s image can be seen everywhere but decidely declares that God isn’t everything. God is beyond “thingness.” God is wholly other than creature. This otherness is what is meant by God’s transcendence. While it is true that we can see God in everything (panentheism) and that God is everywhere (omnipresence), we must never confuse the Creator with the creation, except with Jesus, of course!
This “of course” is huge! In Jesus we see the mystery of incarnation. Incarnation means “in the flesh,” “carnation” coming from the same root as “carnivore.” The mystery of Jesus’ personhood is that He is both human and divine simultaneously without devaluing or convoluting either. I am utterly amazed at the miracle of how big our God is – big enough to create the universe and big enough, oxymoronically, to limit Godself to time and space in Jesus. Wow!
You might ask, “What’s the big deal?” The answer is as clear as why I feel so powerless soemtimes. It’s as clear as my need to know why we even exist. The wonder of God is a big deal because it informs my choices, invigorates my faith, and clears up my confusion. Simply put, I need a God big enough to know it all and small enough to know me. Jesus is that God!
David c. Needham, in his book, Close to His Majesty: An Invitation to Walk With God, writes about the greatnes of God: “When I was a boy, our family often went camping in the High Sierras in California. Traveling along the eastern slopes of those 10-14 thousand feet peaks involved several steep grades and dry, desert-like heat. Steaming radiators and canvas water bags slung over car bumpers were standard equipment. One mountain grade I will never forget. It had a funny name: the ‘O’ grade.”
Needham continues his story by asking his father, “Why ‘O’? Why is it called that way? Is the next grade after it the “P” grade?” Mom and Dad simply smiled and said, “Just wait. You’ll see.” Needham says, “Up and up we would climb on the twisting switchback road through scrub pine and sage. And then — when it seemed we would never get to the top of the ridge — we did! Spontaneously I cired out, ‘Oh!’ There in fron of us, beyond a diamond-studded lake and framed with quaking aspen, was the jagged, snowy Sierra Crest … higher, more massive, more beautiful, and more alive with color than I dreamed. We all laughed together at our now-shared secret. Someday, I thought to myself, I would have the chance to say to someone else, ‘Just wait. You’ll see.'”
Christ the King Sunday and Advent remind me of the “Oh!” of Jesus’ wonder, both immanent and transcendent. He is great enough to be called King of Kings and one of us so as to be called Friend.” Oh! Wow!