Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18 • Ps. 27 • Phil. 3:17-4:1 • Luke 13:31-35
“The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision” (Gen. 15:1). And the Word became a visible presence: a swaddled infant, a young scholar sitting among the teachers, successor to the Baptist, a teacher and healer, the wound-bearing man, death’s defeat, inexhaustible life. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, emanating grace and truth. Recapitulating all humanity, he is a morphing icon and yet he is one Word, the only Word from the Father.
The story of Jesus is both his earthly walk and his hidden life in a beating divine heart. He simply is as God is. When, in the fullness of time, creation comes to be and evolves, he is its guiding wisdom. So creation is a vital testimony to the Word of God. “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom. 1:20). God speaks to the eye. “One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another” (Ps. 19:2). There is vision and sound and a message, but no words but the one Word who runs his course (Ps. 19:3-4).
Perhaps seeing is believing. Abram walks out under the speckled dome of heaven, looks up to luminaries cast against the firmament, at once disordered and strangely clustered to tell truth and narrate stories. In this night vision he is struck by the number of stars, too many to know or count. God speaks: “So shall your descendants be” (Gen. 15:5). Abram is pulled, though willingly, to faith by the vision and the voice. “And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). More visions follow, a bloody sacrifice in the light of day, interpretive visions cast up in dreams. In effect, God says, “You will have peace, old age, a son of your flesh, and a land of promise.”
Looking at New Testament writings, we are still looking, calling the eyes to attention. Jesus says, summarizing his life, “I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work” (Luke 13:32). “See the blood of Christ with intent eyes”; see everything this way (Clement of Rome, to the Corinthians). See him working today and tomorrow and on the third day.
Christ is diffuse and full in all creation, and yet he descends to show a visible pattern. “Brothers and sisters,” St. Paul says, “join in imitating me, and live according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17). Again, there is the call to look up. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Called away from destruction, shame, and trifles, and looking to a Savior from heaven, there is still the visible form on earth, a discipleship “according to the example you have in us.”
Reviewing what we see: Glory in all creation, the wisdom of the eternal Word, luminaries on the firmament speaking to Abram’s heart and planting the seed of promise, Jesus in the beginning, Jesus incarnate and powerful over demons and ills, Jesus forming in his elect icons of his being whom the newborn in faith may imitate. And because the Word of the Lord appears in all this vision, it is never less than the one Word of the Father.
Look It Up: Read Ps. 27:1: Illuminatio.
Think About It: Nature itself is a lesson in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea, and all that is in them profess the goodness and omnipotence of their Author, and the marvelous beauty of the serving elements show the fitting gratitude of an intelligent creation (Leo the Great, Sermon 6 on Lent).