The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

I was surprised. The moment was unexpected and my reaction was quite visceral. I felt it in my gut – a shock – so that I noticed it and yes, it achieved what it set out to do – make me think and check my behaviour. What am I talking about?

I was driving and in a bit of a rush due to unexpected roadworks. The rushing meant I was accelerating that much quicker to get to the speed limit and as I turned the corner I saw the green smiley face speed monitor in the distance. I accelerated and got to 30 but the monitor disagreed and turned red with the number 31. I sup-pose expected a red sad face but what I got was a red angry face! C’mon, it was 31! I was momentarily tempted to go around the block and go much faster to see if there was an angrier face! (I didn’t!) But as I drove home – at the speed limit – what surprised me was how I seemed to have instinctively reacted to the angry face. I noticed it. I was still thinking about it miles later. It made me feel something even though it wasn’t a real face and it wasn’t real anger.

I know human beings have affinity for faces and pa-reidolia is our tendency to find shapes in random pat-terns – particularly faces. I’ve read about the increase use of robotics in Japan in many indus-tries – even for the care of the elderly – and one thing that seems important for the robots’ acceptance is that they have faces. We are drawn to faces.

I wonder whether people shy away from God in thought or behaviour because of the face they ‘see’ in their imagination? From the cartoonesque Monty Python face with crown in the sky to wherever one’s imagination takes you, how does the face of God look? What emotion do you see? If there is anger, then I can imagine people not wanting to go near. If there was a smile then I can imagine being drawn closer. If there was love or kindness then I also can imagine an affinity until the time comes when in our own shame we stay away because we fear a disappointed or betrayed face. Maybe God has a face like Mona Lisa … inscrutable?

At the end of every Divine Service we hear the Aaronic Blessing where we hear about the face of God and how he looks at us.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

The Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace.

We hear that God blesses us, is gracious to us, and is for us and wanting us to have peace. This is an active God rescuing us, forgiving us, being patient with us, guiding us, helping us, confronting us, challenging us and yet always for us, especially when we are not for our-selves. What sort of face might we see? I haven’t a clue but with imagination might see Je-sus’ face and that he is always ‘for you’, never against you. Yes, his face is both scarred and glorious. And such a face can also make us react – spiritually, viscerally, behaviourally, con-stantly – not in fear but in the truth that this God loves me. Now that’s a face I want to, one day, see! GS