Connecting–True North: a Reflection on John 3:1-17 and Isaiah 6:1-8
True north differs from magnetic north, which varies from place to place due to local magnetic anomalies. A magnetic compass almost never shows true north. To find true north from a magnetic compass you have to know the local magnetic variation and how it is varying over time. Finding true north is essential for accurate navigation. Hence the metaphor. In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path.
In the winter of 1968, Brennan Manning lived in a cave in the Zaragosa Desert in Spain. The cave was six thousand feet above the sea and he never saw another human face or heard a human voice apart from Sunday mornings when a Franciscan brother would bring him food, water, and kerosene for his lamp. Brennan Manning in The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus writes, “On the night of December 13, 1968, I heard Jesus say, ‘For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, who fled me, who did want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched and beaten, and fixed to the wood of the cross.’”What a statement of God’s love for us and how resting in that love gives us true north direction for our lives.
Isaiah saw God and heard the seraphs cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORDAlmighty.” God had a vision for humanity…for Isaiah. King Uzziah had been a godly man until the latter years of his reign. He lost direction for his life and that of the kingdom. Following King Uzziah’s death, God gave Isaiah a vision for his life and the lives of the people of God. Isaiah cried out to God, “Woe to me!” Isaiah confessed his sin to God. Self-awareness is not negative. A seraph came to him, touched his lips with a burning coal, declared to Isaiah that his guilt had been taken away, and that atonement had been made for his sin. God then asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I; send me!”
To participate in God’s vision for humanity, loving God and loving others, like Isaiah, we must confess our sin and say, “Here am I; send me!”On this Trinity Sunday, let us not forget that God dwells within us. God is fully engaged as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of our lives…all of life…in all ways and at all times. Again, Manning writes,
How long have you been a Christian? How long have you been living in the Spirit? Do you know what it is to love Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is to have your love unsatisfied, endured in loneliness, and ready to burst your restless, ravenous heart? Do you know what it is to have the pain taken away, the hole filled up, to reach out and embrace this sacred Man and say sincerely, “I cannot let you go. In good times and bad, victory and defeat, my life has no meaning without you.” If this experience has not illuminated your life with its brilliance, then regardless of age, disposition, or state of life, you do not understand what it means to be a Christian.
God’s eternal being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is present in the world bringing about salvation. Wherever we see works of love, peace, and justice, we know God is at work. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn, but to save.
It is true that we are sinners. Self-awareness is the beginning of clarifying true north for our lives. Living in the Spirit, you are connected to God and others. Jesus loves you. Know God’s love for you. Rest in it. Therein you discern true north direction for your life. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.
Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus (New York City, New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 173.
Some ideas in this paragraph are gleaned from Donald K. McKim and Kristen Emery Saldine in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 26-31.