Friday, February 18, 2005

whose face do you see?/elizabeth bishop

This was a message given in morning worship on February 6, 2005, by Elizabeth Bishop, a senior at Providence High School in Charlotte, and a member of Providence UMC. It is posted here with her permission.

“If you were asked to picture the face of Christ, what would you see? Would you see a face similar to the one on our stain glass window, a face that is radiant, a face that is glowing, fresh, and clean? Or would you picture the face of a suffering Christ, a crucified, humiliated, and persecuted Christ?

Throughout my faith journey I have seen many faces of Christ, but because I live in a society consumed with greed, one that worships knowledge and power, I regrettably tend to view Christ as a divine figure, one that portrays royalty, wisdom, and strength. Every so often I find myself subconsciously worshiping Christ only for the characteristics that are accepted in my own culture. In the first chapter of Corinthians, it is clear that Christ cannot be glorified for these secular qualities. Our strength is far surpassed by God’s own might, and our wisdom is merely foolishness compared with that of God’s. Therefore God’s judgment doesn’t depend on an individuals position, authority, or amount of money, God ensures his kingdom to those individuals whom we least expect.

This past summer in Stanley County I had the opportunity to take a glimpse of the least expected. On the first day of work, my group and I pulled into a driveway beside a battered, weather-beaten car. The flaky, faded crust of paint on the car was concealed by bumper stickers peeling away with age. We anxiously and somewhat nervously got out of the van and noticed the trailer, which was in comparable condition to the car. The inside of the trailer, which I saw later that week, appeared unlivable. Filth and clutter seemed to creep down the walls, onto the floor and furniture. Unfortunately the disorder that illustrates this trailer also serves to describe the life of the woman that lived there. She suffered neglect during childhood, a divorce, breast cancer, a fire destroying her home and belongings, and financial trouble. But in meeting her and seeing her bright smile, hearing the joy in her laughter, and feeling the warmth in her eyes you would never suspect the difficulties she encountered. Her welcoming embraces and grandmotherly persona were only complemented by the name she used to introduce herself, Nana.

Throughout the week we knew our work was appreciated, but it was our company that Nana was most grateful for. Despite the incredible heat of the weak Nana stayed outside with us all day. She helped fix our lunches, talked to us while we worked; she shared our sweat and frustration when measurements were wrong, and our joy and excitement when progress was made. But, most importantly Nana shared her faith and unconditional love for God. When we arrived in the mornings, work was never started without a prayer, and Nana’s prayers were beautiful, unique, full of thankfulness and rejoicing. There was no doubt that God was speaking through Nana’s prayers.

I came to realize that Nana lived as a disciple of Christ. In the book of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples before giving the Sermon on the Mount, that they should not expect fame and fortune by serving him, Jesus tells them to expect mourning, hunger, and persecution. Isn’t this similar to what Nana has experienced? Nana has followed God; despite her circumstances she has not left His side. She lives as Jesus did, she does what God requires of her, she gives thanks for what God has given her, and she is happy. Although she mourns, although she is humble, Nana is pure at heart, and she works for peace. Nana will be rewarded in the kingdom of God.

So, this disorder, this clutter that I perceived Nana’s life to be filled with, is what God prefers. It’s what God chooses. In first Corinthians it states that God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chooses the lowly and the despised things of the world and the things that are not to nullify the things that are. Nana, like many others will be placed into the kingdom of God; the poor, uneducated, and insignificant have been placed in our lives to help us see what God requires. Isn’t this the reason God placed Jesus Christ on earth, to serve as an example of how we as Christians should live? I saw the face of Christ in Nana, but her face was not clean and glowing, it was the face of the persecuted Christ, the humiliated and crucified Christ.”


Blogger my_angel_eyes3 said...


6:28 PM  
Blogger ken carter said...

hearing it was a great experience too. thanks, elizabeth!

6:34 AM  

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