“Who are you, where are you?”

Choose LifeDuring Advent and Lent, I have developed a habit of reading a book that will focus me on the season of the Christian year. For Advent 2018 and Lent 2019 I picked up Choose Life: Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral by Rowan Williams, who is the greatest living theologian in my estimation. This is the first collection of sermons I have ever read, and I already plan on returning to it because of their power to edify. Here is an arresting excerpt from his sermon, “The Word of Life, the Words of Prayer” (Christmas 2011), which explains why the book is entitled Choose Life:

It’s been well said that the first question we hear in the Bible is not humanity’s question to God but God’s question to us, God walking in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden, looking for Adam and Eve who are trying to hide from him. ‘Adam, where are you?’ (Genesis 3.9). The life of Jesus is that question translated into an actual human life, into the conversations and encounters of a flesh-and-blood humans being like all others – except that when people meet him they will say, like the woman who talks with him at the well of Samaria, ‘Here is a man who told me everything I ever did’ (John 4.29). Very near the heart of Christian faith and practice is this encounter with God’s question, ‘Who are you, where are you?’ Are you on the side of the life that lives in Jesus, the life of grace and truth, of unstinting generosity and unsparing honesty, the only life that gives life to others? Or are you on your own side, on the side of disconnection, rivalry, the hoarding of gifts, the obsession with control? To answer that you’re on the side of life doesn’t mean for a moment that you can now relax into a fuzzy philosophy of ‘life-affirming’ comfort. On the contrary: it means you are willing to face everything within you that is cheap, fearful, untruthful and evasive, and let the light shine on it. Like Peter in the very last chapter of John’s gospel, we can only say that we are trying to love the truth that is in Jesus, even as we acknowledge all we have done that is contrary to his spirit. And we say this because we trust that we are loved by this unfathomable mystery who comes to us in the shape of a newborn child, ‘full of grace and truth.’


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