Perspectives on Perspective
John 5:30-47 I never have considered myself much of an artist. I've told the story before of how I nearly failed a non-credit art class in high school. We were supposed to produce three pieces by the end of the summer term, but I couldn't even finish the first.
But I remember distinctly loving to draw perspective drawings: endless horizons, hallways seeming to go on forever, a road narrowing into nothingness, a creation revolving around the center of the page as though it were a black hole slowly drawing the rest of the world into its gaping maw.
There's something about our Scripture readings this morning which reminds me of those childhood artwork. We begin this journey with the prophet Isaiah; and as much as we might want to linger and hear him, he shoos us on down the road: "Keep moving. There's nothing to see here. But up ahead, there's this guy. Now that you'll want to see. A voice crying in the wilderness!" And so we move on.
And it's worth the trek: this wild figure with wild hair in wild clothes gestures wildly. And so we are drawn to this John the Baptist figure, ready to stop and rest, take in the scenery. But he scoots us along. "You think I'm great? Just wait. This is nothing. I'm not the main attraction. Keep going. It's just over the hill. That guy is, well, he's the one. What more can I say?" And so we keep going.
And then we get to this Jesus; not nearly as dramatic as the last guy, but John was right about him. This is the kind of guy you want to follow. Surely we've now reached that unreachable horizon, right? But as soon as we catch our breath, Jesus points off down the road toward this one he calls his Father: the creator, the one who shapes us to begin with.
We've just begun this season of Advent. And it, too, parallels these travels. It's a season of preparation, four weeks leading up to those brief twelve days of Christmas. But we don't stop there. Once we arrive at the manger, there is still more to come on down the road: there is ministry, crucifixion, resurrection. And then there is church, the body of Christ, us gathered here: more ministry, more journey, more signposts down that path toward the endless, eternal center of the page.
But isn't that what this is all about? We don't do what we do - whether it's preach, or sing, or ring, play, or pray, or teach, or serve - because we think that we deserve to be the center of attention, do we? Everything we do, whether it takes place in this building or not, should, in its own perfected imperfect way, point the way to others. "Keep going. Stay on the road. You can't miss it."
The funny thing about perspective drawings is that they can play tricks on your eyes. Just as soon as you think that road is moving away from you, that's when you squint; your focus was somewhere else, and for a second, just for a second, you think you see the center point popping up out of the paper, not going further into it.
We are on this journey just as much as we are sharing the road with others. But the destination isn't the unreachable depths of the page. It's the artist, the everlasting creator, who first drew us and continues to draw us, to beckon us ever closer.