11. June 2017

The Loveliness of God

Service Type:

Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton

‘…As One from whom we hide our faces…’ (Isaiah 53, 3b)

Loveliness is a self defining word, defying definition beyond itself. But it has to mean something. In literature its most well-known reference is in John Keats’, ‘Endymion’…
‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness’
Relationships are established on a basis of mutual attractiveness; and the perceived beauty of the other is a vital component in the process, even if it is ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’; of itself a profound theological insight, given that God looked at all He had made and pronounced it to be very good; in short, each one of us is beautiful in the sight of God, a beauty that causes God to love us regardless – but of itself beauty is insufficient to sustain a relationship – it is within the relationship, as it grows and develops and matures – that loveliness emerges; that sense each has of the other that each can love and be loved by the other; an emotional state, of the heart, seeing that which is hidden from the eyes, recognising that which would be otherwise blind to us. It is, in short, the way we fall in love,
‘When words fall away from the lips,
and the mind sinks into a deep slumber,
something wakes up to wonder,
the wonder of an old cup,
a rocking chair, a wooden table,
it’s beauty almost too much to bear,
the hand trembles and the eyes tear,
Ah! ! ! exquisite loveliness,
the heart of everything.’
(Nora Tunney)
When we speak of the loveliness of God we are describing how God offers Himself to us and to the world that we might be persuaded to fall in love with Him; God offers Himself to us and to the world as One who has fallen in love with each and every one of us. We are loved by God and God’s desire is that we ‘love Him who first loved us’. Isaiah presents us with a paradox – He describes the ‘suffering servant – whom Christianity takes to refer to Jesus – as One who has no beauty; nothing to attract us to Him, indeed so badly disfigured was His appearance it was as if we could not bear to look at him. And yet He impresses Himself upon us in such a way that we cannot help falling in love with Him. In short, loveliness is the way we describe that which God sees in us that causes God to fall in love with us; it is what we see in God that causes us to fall in love with God. But the astounding claim of the Gospel is that God betrays His loveliness in the Jesus of the Cross – One whose body one could not look upon – yet One whose arms, involuntarily stretched to their limit, re open wide, inviting us, enticing us, even seducing us. We fall in love with Jesus in spite of how He looks not because of how He looks; the persuasive power of Divine love is laid bare at Calvary, compelling us to respond in like manner – not coercing us, but rather compelling is – the compulsion of Divine love. And in so doing Jesus confronts the image of macho man; and yes I’m sure He could indeed leap giant buildings in a single bound; dazzling us with the all brilliance that comes with having the power of the universe at His fingerprints – this is not how God works. In the light of which we begin to realise Just what it is that God is seeking to accomplish in and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection…

 
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live
Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving
…As Christians we are called to serve God and the world in the precise way that we fashion relationships with each other; relationships must always go deeper than mere physical attraction; relationships that cause us to recognise the essential loveliness that is within each of us; causing to realise that relationships are more than just physical, more than just emotional, that there is in essence a spiritual dimension which ought to underpin the way we relate to one another, in whatever circumstance…God in His loveliness desires to love us and would have us love Him too, for God is love and we are loved by God. This is the Good News; actually it is the very best news…

The Loveliness of God

‘…As One from whom we hide our faces…’ (Isaiah 53, 3b)

Loveliness is a self defining word, defying definition beyond itself. But it has to mean something. In literature its most well-known reference is in John Keats’, ‘Endymion’…

‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness’

Relationships are established on a basis of mutual attractiveness; and the perceived beauty of the other is a vital component in the process, even if it is ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’; of itself a profound theological insight, given that God looked at all He had made and pronounced it to be very good; in short, each one of us is beautiful in the sight of God, a beauty that causes God to love us regardless - but of itself beauty is insufficient to sustain a relationship - it is within the relationship, as it grows and develops and matures - that loveliness emerges; that sense each has of the other that each can love and be loved by the other; an emotional state, of the heart, seeing that which is hidden from the eyes, recognising that which would be otherwise blind to us. It is, in short, the way we fall in love,

‘When words fall away from the lips,
and the mind sinks into a deep slumber,
something wakes up to wonder,
the wonder of an old cup,
a rocking chair, a wooden table,
it's beauty almost too much to bear,
the hand trembles and the eyes tear,
Ah! ! ! exquisite loveliness,
the heart of everything.’

(Nora Tunney)

When we speak of the loveliness of God we are describing how God offers Himself to us and to the world that we might be persuaded to fall in love with Him; God offers Himself to us and to the world as One who has fallen in love with each and every one of us. We are loved by God and God’s desire is that we ‘love Him who first loved us’. Isaiah presents us with a paradox - He describes the ‘suffering servant - whom Christianity takes to refer to Jesus - as One who has no beauty; nothing to attract us to Him, indeed so badly disfigured was His appearance it was as if we could not bear to look at him. And yet He impresses Himself upon us in such a way that we cannot help falling in love with Him. In short, loveliness is the way we describe that which God sees in us that causes God to fall in love with us; it is what we see in God that causes us to fall in love with God. But the astounding claim of the Gospel is that God betrays His loveliness in the Jesus of the Cross - One whose body one could not look upon - yet One whose arms, involuntarily stretched to their limit, re open wide, inviting us, enticing us, even seducing us. We fall in love with Jesus in spite of how He looks not because of how He looks; the persuasive power of Divine love is laid bare at Calvary, compelling us to respond in like manner - not coercing us, but rather compelling is - the compulsion of Divine love. And in so doing Jesus confronts the image of macho man; and yes I’m sure He could indeed leap giant buildings in a single bound; dazzling us with the all brilliance that comes with having the power of the universe at His fingerprints - this is not how God works. In the light of which we begin to realise Just what it is that God is seeking to accomplish in and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection…

 

From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving

…As Christians we are called to serve God and the world in the precise way that we fashion relationships with each other; relationships must always go deeper than mere physical attraction; relationships that cause us to recognise the essential loveliness that is within each of us; causing to realise that relationships are more than just physical, more than just emotional, that there is in essence a spiritual dimension which ought to underpin the way we relate to one another, in whatever circumstance…God in His loveliness desires to love us and would have us love Him too, for God is love and we are loved by God. This is the Good News; actually it is the very best news…