Lamplighter: The Pastor's Pen

When we were at Concordia Seminary, we were firmly in the middle of the “Show Me” State. No one knows exactly where the nickname originated, but many people point to an 1899 speech by then Congressman Willard Vandiver as the moment when the phrase became widespread. He said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me.” In other words, you have to do better than tell me. You have to show me.

In January, we enter a season of showing, a season of revelation. On January 6, the two-month long season of Epiphany begins. What is Epiphany? The word comes from Greek and means ‘appearance’ or ‘revelation.’ Historically, it has marked the visit of the Magi to the Holy Family, when Jesus was around two years old. Thus, it marks the time when Jesus was revealed not simply to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles. In other words, it is a season of showing.

We like to be shown, yes? We like to see. Sure, words are good. Certainly, the Word of God is important. But, there comes a point when all of us want more than words – we want to see. Moses is a great example. This is someone to whom God had revealed himself by speaking out of a burning bush. Even more, Moses had seen the Lord’s power and salvation when God sent plagues on the Egyptians, eventually rescuing his people by parting the Sea. He saw manna from heaven. Most of all, on Mount Sinai, amid a dark cloud, he received the Lords’ instruction, including the Ten Commandments. But there, on the mountain of the Lord, Moses spoke these words: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). It was almost like Moses was done with words. “I know that you said you would accompany me, Lord, but show me…

In the Church, we hear God’s Word plenty (at least, we should). No promise is more comforting than the words of our Lord Jesus on the mountain just before his Ascension. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We have heard it so many times; and yet, we still want more, especially when our lives seem to take a terrible turn. “Where are you, God? You say that you are powerful to save? Show me!” Whether it’s illness, danger, need, uncertainty, doubt, or any of the other issues that can plague our minds and hearts, sometimes we simply find ourselves done with words. We want the Lord to act, and we want to see him act.

But, the Lord does not reveal himself at our whims. His ways are not our ways. When he appears, he comes in a baby in a manger. When he speaks, he does so in a man rejected in his own hometown. When he comes to reign, he does so from a cross. In Jesus, the Word made flesh, God is made known. Paul writes that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God”(Colossians 1:15), and that in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). He came in the weakness of the Cross, giving his disciples only a glimpse of his full glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. God stooped down in grace to accommodate our need to see him and touch him. He showed his love, mercy, power, and salvation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

To be sure, the Lord was willing to accommodate Moses’ request. He set him in a cleft of a rock and passed by in his glory. Only, God covered the cleft until he had passed by, so that Moses would only see the back of God. God comes to us as well, his full glory hidden from us, though no less powerful. He reveals himself through his Word. He hides himself in water, with bread, and under the wine. We have the ultimate show of force from God. He has shown us his power through the saving work of Jesus, which comes to us in the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). But, there will come a time when we will finally see him in his glory, when his salvation will finally be revealed to all. And, oh, how we look forward to that time. Until then, we have his Word. And his Word is enough. Come soon, Lord Jesus!           

         -Pastor Squire