Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Invitation

I thought I might share some of my reading and reflection through Lent this year. I plan to post seven reflections using the same headings Steven D. Purcell uses in his Lenten Book, Even Among these Rocks, namely:
  1. The invitation
  2. The desert of temptation
  3. Uncovering illusions
  4. The abiding presence
  5. The abundance of joy
  6. The movement outward
  7. The final act
So here goes...
'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'
Matthew 11:28-30
As a Scottish presyterian I probably shouldn't admit that I'm strangely fascinated by icons, and none more so that Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity. Jesus, the Son, is seated in the centre, with the Father on the left and the Holy Spirit on the right. The more you look at it, from the point of perspective, it seems wrong. It subverts the commonly held convention that the vanishing point should be in the distance. Here, quite the opposite is the case: the vanishing point appears to be placed where we are, almost piercing our innermost being. And before us is an empty place at the table of God.
The thing is, whatever you think of icons, this one was never meant as a lovely decoration for a place of worship or as a helpful explanation of a difficult doctrine... this icon is an invitation. It is an invitation out of ourselves and into the house of God; an invitation out of fear and into love. And, with the vansihing point located in us, the perspective opens before us. What Rublev is trying to say is that, as we accept God's invitation, our life opens beyond us into the ever-widening life of the Trintiy
Lent - and, for that matter, the Christian life - begins with an invitation. It begins with the call of Christ to leave ourselves behind and follow him. George MacDonald once worte, 'Christ is the way out, and the way in: the way from slavery, conscious or unconscious, into liberty; the way from the unhomliness of things to the home we desire but do not know; the way from the stormy skirts of the Father's garments to the peace of his bosom.'
The problem is that such an invitation seems almost too good to be true and, as such, is difficult to accept. We become all too aware, like the invited guest in George Herbert's Love Bade Me Welcome, that we are 'guilty of dust and sin.' The truth is this, though, that Love does bid us welcome... he draws near to us... he takes us by the hand... he implores us to sit at his table.
The invitation is there. All we have to do is make a movement towards Christ. And every step taken toward him confirms the mystery that our journey into the community of the triune God is our journey home. My prayer, as Lent unfolds before us and as we contemplate Rublev's icon, echoes that of Steven D. Purcell: 'that we might move beyond the confines of ourselves into the life and infinite possibility of the triune God.'


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