Revelation. The word itself is a noun formed from the verb “to reveal,” and for Christians, the revelation is that Jesus is Lord. This is one of the most basic truths of Christian theology, yet for the average Christian (and for many non-Christians) the word revelation is not always understood. Putting grand theological ideas aside for the moment, revelation, simply stated, is the act of how God reveals himself to us. To help us understand this idea of revelation, we turn to our readings for this 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
The Word for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
1Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Psalm: 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
We open with a reading from the 1st book of Kings. We enter the passage with great prophet Elijah as he is seeking shelter in the sacred mountain in the Sinai (mount Horeb). While in the cave God tells him to stand outside, because the Lord will be passing by. A strong wind comes, but that was not the Lord. An earthquake comes, but that was not the Lord. Finally, Elijah hears a tiny whispering sound, grabs his cloak, and stands ready. What does this tell us? That God reveals himself in the most unexpected ways. Our expectation is to see God’s power and glory in storms, earthquakes, and choirs of Heavenly hosts. Instead, God often is found in the less obvious; A tiny whisper. A feeling. Not always a grand gesture, but in an intimate, quite way. God is as much present in the stillness as in the noise… and how he chooses to reveal himself is as varied as there are individual souls.
Our Psalm takes this idea of revelation one step further. If we hear God, we see his kindness and mercy. God proclaims peace and salvation… not death and destruction. For those who “fear” him, that is, respect him, love him, follow his covenant, salvation is theirs.
Our Gospel from Matthew is also a story of revelation. Picking up where we left off last week (with the miracle of feeding the five thousand), Jesus sends his disciples ahead in the boat while he retires to the mountain for some prayer and peace. That evening, while Jesus is alone on the mountain, the boat that the disciples are in is getting tossed around by an angry sea. In seeing their distress, Jesus walks out to help them… walking on the water. The disciples think they’re seeing a ghost, but he calms their fears by calling out to them and telling them to take courage… to not be afraid. But Peter is hesitant, so he cries out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus does, and Peter comes, but fear soon overcomes his amazement and he begins to sink, whereupon Jesus leads him back to the boat. Back in the boat, the waters calm, and the disciples are amazed, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Up to this point in the narrative the disciples have been traveling with Jesus for a while now. They’ve heard him preaching and teaching. They’ve witnessed his healings. Clearly they saw something in him to have stayed with him this far, but now they are convinced. This is their moment of revelation. Jesus is Lord, the Son of God.
Rounding out our readings for this week is our continued study of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this opening to the 9th chapter, Paul is lamenting how his own people, the Israelites, can’t see Jesus for who he is: the Christ. With all the prophecy, the Law, the covenants, from the patriarchs all the way down through history, Paul is willing to give up his own salvation if his people could see Jesus for who he is. This just goes to show that even if all the signs are right in front of us, we can still not see it. Paul’s own revelation is one of the most powerful and transformative in Scripture, yet even his own testimony isn’t enough for his own people.
How God reveals himself to us is as much an individual experience as it is a communal experience. As we join with others in faith and worship, we can see the Holy Spirit at work, and seeing that Spirit at work can reveal God to us. But it is also that personal calling, which isn’t always instantaneous, isn’t always obvious. Sometimes the truth is revealed on a stormy sea. Sometimes the truth is revealed in a tiny whisper. The key is keeping ourselves open to seeing it, to hearing it, to feeling it, so when it makes itself known, we won't miss it.