Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Years in Cairo - A Full Moon in Oxford

I have been in Oxford for a day now, and I hope you will indulge me if I write a bit about the romance of this wonderful place.

There are two memories which will remain with me, I think, until I am called home.  The first is the joy of being in Cairo, Egypt on New Years eve and overlooking the Nile river, in all of it's luminescent glory, at midnight as fire works went off on the opposite side of the city.  I can still remember the reflection of the fireworks on the water, from my hotel room balcony, and marveling at how different this culture of Egypt was from my own.  The second great memory will be seeing a full moon perched over the ancient cathedral ramparts of Oxford, and again, watching a hovering orb reflected in the water of the Thames river.

On both occasions what I think I love the most was the feeling of being in a place that was totally other (Egypt and England), and yet feeling like this place was very much a part of me.  I experienced the joy of having something near me which was so much larger and bigger than me (the Nile, the Thames), and yet somehow absorbing it's beauty at the same time.

I think, in a way, that is what is so exciting about Christianity.  It is the dual experience of knowing a God who is vast in size and scope, and yet feeling a personal connection to that God in Jesus Christ.  It is the polarity of viscerally knowing the "otherness" of God while at the same time knowing the similarity of this God with my basic being (I, like you, am made in the image of God- Imago Dei).

This polarity between connection and distance, vastness and intimacy, beauty and sovereignty is perhaps what David was trying to express in Psalm 42; "As a deer longs for flowing streams (thirst is not a pleasant feeling until it is quenched), so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, "Where is your God?"

To stand between the moon and a river in Oxford is a kind of in-between place.  To experience the fireworks of Cairo on New Years overlooking the Nile is to be suspended in between two realities.  That suspension is what it is to be human.  That nearness and distance to God is what it is to be a Christ follower.

Or at least, that is my thought on this first day of my C.S. Lewis class.  But I am sure Lewis would agree.  "We live in the Shadowlands, beyond the bend in a road, around the curve of a hill..." (or something like that.

All For Now,

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