When we think of AWE, often it is in the context of a vacation to the Grand Canyon…We are struck by the immensity and beauty - Have you had that?
Or sometimes it is in the small details of a snow-flake on the cheek… and we feel awakened by the power of creation. When we tune into this feeling and keep it present before us, we may find we have Awe at the warm water from the faucet - or the birds singing when shoveling snow…This week I was finding the thread of AWE throughout our readings…
We begin with the Awesome compassion of God.
Nineva! Nineva was a city that terrified and insulted the people of Israel. Nineva was the capital of Assyria and the long-time enemy of Israel. Jonah did not want to go there.
And it is only after his second call from God (and being swallowed by that fish) that he eventually does. Jonah also did not want God to forgive Nineva. But he is the very agent who helps God express great compassion by preaching to a people to change their ways and turn to God.
God’s great compassion, contrary to popular belief, is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures… time and time again, we hear that God forgives.
When reading the Hebrew Scripture, we often associate God with Awe: the fear and trembling, but we also hear time and time again of another AWE: God’s great mercy and compassion…
7 He alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
8 In God is my safety and my honor; *
God is my strong rock and my refuge.”
God’s compassion to move the hearts of people then and today is awe-inspiring.
God’s great compassion helps open us up to AWE; recognition of this magnificent power of creation encompassing us.
And in turn the mystery of the power of AWE opens us up to compassion for others, by helping us recognize that we are bound up in a life that is much bigger than anything our minds can completely comprehend.
In the letter of Corinthians, Paul is writing to a community who are in a lot of disarray, quarreling with one another about relationships basically. Who should be married, how should we behave in a small Christian enclave within a Greek society?
Paul is trying to gather this group into a space of unity - while he is also feeling an intense urgency - that the Kingdom is near - He doesn’t want them to miss the importance of the moment, the AWE before them. He doesn’t want their attention to be so concerned with worldly affairs.
His urgency may sounds strange to us 2,000 years later, but his very next statement (not included here) is: “I want you to be free from anxieties.”…
“From now on, let those who deal with the world be as though they had no dealings with it…For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties.”
He is trying to relieve anxiousness about worldly life- and have people turn their hearts and attention to God, the source of life.
Right now we have a lot of anxiety and urgency. We are facing illness and some of us are experiencing intense grief and loss. This kind of experience makes time itself seem very strange - and perhaps helps us relate to Paul’s urgency. He expected everything to pass away quite imminently.
The preciousness of life becomes acute!
The prescription for Love is vital.
At the same time for those of us struggling with grief and loss and illness - we may feel some gap - a sense of a space between ourselves and the World. We are not living quite in step with others, or in our regular rhythms.
So we require that space to journey into an awareness of God - and into our healing.
This is one experience of AWE; Coming face to face with this great mystery - suddenly we are in it - in a cloud of unknowing.
Turning to God as “strong rock and refuge” through the foggy space brings us into an immediacy of that Awe… “in its fear and trembling,” yes… but also in its magnificence and steadfast comfort.
AWE is another form of life-giving. It gives to us: magnificent wonder;
a recognition of our life in God - and our everlasting life in God.
For others who are starting families (and expecting the Newness of life in a child), they are also met with an urgency - and the necessity of making space:
Space in the house, space in the rhythm of family life, and ultimately, space for God’s compassion to quell anxieties,
and God’s compassion to be made manifest in the Spirit of a home.
This space - a space of expectation is different from those of us emerged in spaces of loss, yet both inspire that incredible experience - the fear and trembling of AWE.
(I have not yet met a pregnant woman who hasn’t experienced fear and trembling.)
Awe encompasses both sadness and joy. It is overwhelming and mysterious in its power. AWE is not only present in a majestic view, a trip to the Grand Canyon, or a profound shift in our life. AWE is present in the very minute details of our every day life. It can be found in slowing down to wash the dishes, to find yourself present to your chores - to your senses - to your breath.
The importance is always to see the gift of it before us.
And to follow in its way.
The call for us in these days, is like Jesus who calls the fishermen to follow it.
It doesn’t mean to give up everything of who you are and what you have been. But to tune into God no matter what we are dealing with in the world;
…to try to remain present to God’s ever creative energy working with us as Holy Spirit and rock of comfort…
…Always keep in front of us the preciousness of each life, the majesty of creation itself and the magnificence and mystery of our existence.
If we can keep AWE at the forefront of our lives, if we can hold this space, it will quell our anxieties. If we hold it in our every day chores, and in our life with others, it will help us heal our relationships.
The compassion of God shows up in the experience of AWE and the space that we make for AWE in our lives.
In our "dealings with life," anxieties are appeased when we allow this experience to soften us… to make us awake to the present, to the source of life…. It helps us be more forgiving of ourselves and of others. It allows compassion to grow - and love to grow.
It IS urgent.
It is prescriptive.
Awe as the balm of God comes to us wherever we are - and calls us like Jesus to follow, and to share this good news. Amen.