Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bow Down

Revelation 4:1-11

In college, probably at the beginning of my radicalized black consciousness phase, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Unlike many of my peers, however, I read it as a practicing Christian, and found most arresting Malcolm's description of his conversion. I was especially moved by his description of the first time he knelt in prayer. He said, "The hardest test I ever faced in my life was praying." Then he continued, "I had to force myself to bend my knees. And waves of shame and embarrassment would force me back up. For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, to implore the forgiveness of God is the hardest thing in the world. It's easy for me to see and to say that now. But then, when I was the personification of evil, I was going through it. Again, and again I would force myself back down in the praying-to-Allah posture. When I was finally able to make myself stay down - I didn't know what to say to Allah."

Actually, it's not enough for me to say that I found Malcolm X's testimony about his conversion to Islam moving or even compelling, I found it convicting. The change he experienced made me question my commitment and then recommit to the discipline of my own faith in Jesus Christ. His testimony also made me more conscious of my need to bow down.

Little about the book of Revelation is straightforward or easily accessible, but all of its images are evocative. Everything it shows us makes us think. Note the transition in today's lesson, marked by the opening of heaven's door. The earlier chapters have been discussing the current activities of the seven churches, but beginning with chapter four we glimpse the activity taking place in a realm beyond our natural sight. This spirit realm is a place of brilliance and majesty, with thrones and gems and angelic hosts, with thunder, lightning, and flashing torches. There is One great Being who sits on the throne. There are 24 elders who wear crowns but in the presence of the One who sits on the throne, they cast their crowns down. Not just their crowns, though. They cast themselves down too, and fall down before God's majesty.

I needed the reminder when I was in college, and I am thankful for the reminder today to bow down. While I know that prayer is not simply about posture, I also know that where we put our bodies and how we configure them indicates and shapes what's going on in our minds and spirits.

Holy, holy, holy the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.

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