As we approach the season of Advent, we find Ezekiel being outrageous in true prophetic style. If we pride ourselves on being spiritual seekers, Ezekiel insists that it is God who seeks us out and not the other way around. Can’t we prize the maturity of knowing who we are and of finding communities where we feel at home? Ezekiel informs us that we are in fact so lost that God must take the trouble to find and rescue us.
When I needed a childhood photograph for an upcoming staff retreat, I climbed up to the attic to forage among the boxes. There I found my earliest photo album, and in it a picture from my second year of life. Applesauce must have been on the menu that day. Whether it was the applesauce itself or the person feeding it to me one spoonful at a time, something led me to doze off. I fell asleep in the high chair and suddenly, “Click.” Instant photo-op. As a youngster, I used to think that was the funniest picture in the book.
I wonder and worry that people perceive Christ’s rule to be similar to the queen of England’s rule. Do we view Christ as one surrounded with the art and beauty of a tradition that is more antique than active? Do we see this figure of salvation as hopelessly outdated and practically mute in these postmodern times?
As a child, I studied many different images of the Good Shepherd. I saw the official version every Sunday in the stained glass window above the altar at First Congregational Church in Tempe, Arizona. That shepherd was a tall, friendly-looking, 30-something man dressed in a full-length white robe. The image is probably the most familiar representation of the Good Shepherd. Yet the beautiful and peaceful image didn’t jibe with my own experience.