Over the past four years, I’ve been part of a Theotogs group started by Western Theological Seminary. It is, as the name implies, dedicated to exploring theological photography. Yes, we have learned skills in making photos, but of even greater value, we have challenged one another to engage in visio divina, seeing what is all around us with the eyes of faith.
There are infinite possibilities within photography for capturing the glimpses of God’s activity in our world. That goal of looking for them and trying to properly frame them or capture the memory of them came to mind as I contemplated Psalm 85:11: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.”
Of this verse, John Calvin wrote that even though the verbs are past tense, “they should be translated into the future.” He goes on, “I cordially embrace the opinion which is held by many, that we have here a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ.”
What more accurate terms could we use for the kingdom of God, coming and already among us, than the powerful words of steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace? But, how can one depict such abstract concepts with something as concrete as a photograph? Surely, you have seen gifted photographers capture images that evoke our sensibilities to assure us that righteousness and peace do at times kiss each other.
If you are familiar with camera lenses, then you know that wide-angle lenses can be very useful for seeing “the big picture.” I’d like to suggest that metaphorically, we can see instances of God’s righteousness and peace kissing each other when we adopt a wide-angle view of life.
To say that there is evidence of trouble, turmoil, anxiety, and general unrest all around us would be an understatement. Instances of violence, hate, and mistrust are easily seen. But, even now, in the midst of all that is troubling, God’s activity and presence can be seen. Such is true at many times in the most unlikely of places and in situations where we least expect it.
A few years ago, I found myself at our cottage in Michigan, following a significant ice storm that left our driveway impassable. The bank of snow and ice piled up from snow plows looked formidable, but I needed to make progress on it, so I started the shoveling process. My intention was to at least get the pile down to a more manageable size and hope that ice melt and sunshine would do the rest of the work. About ten minutes into it, I realized the immensity of the challenge. And, just in that moment, a group of eight men came walking by. The first one struck up a conversation, by asking if I was doing this all by myself. When I answered affirmatively, he turned to the rest of the group and said, “Hey, why don’t we shovel her out?” I soon realized that this was the regular afternoon stroll of the current group of residents at a house down the street that provided residential care and treatment for men recovering from substance abuse. The counselor for the group agreed that they could indeed help me, so he sent some of them back for more shovels. Once they all got involved, the huge mound of snow and ice diminished rapidly. That was a very welcome sign of God’s grace all by itself to me. But, what happened next took my breath away. Our next door neighbor, who is a very unhappy person, opened his door and yelled, “Don’t throw any snow on my driveway!” No snow had been tossed on his driveway in the process, so such a comment might have discouraged or angered the workers in some scenario. Instead, the lead Good Samaritan turned to the person next to him and said, “Let’s kill him with kindness,” proceeding to start shoveling out the neighbor’s driveway as well.
As he whistled “Amazing Grace” while he worked, I marveled at the work of God in bringing righteousness and peace to embrace in that young man’s life, and I wondered at being able to “see” the work of God in him. I knew, further, that some in the neighborhood were not pleased with the presence of that house—so, all the more, I sensed God’s presence in the moment. There was no photograph made of that instance, but the image was impressed on me regardless.
Today, friends, let’s look at life with a wide-angle lens of sorts, to see where God’s shalom is being manifested, where steadfast love and kindness are meeting, and where righteousness and peace are kissing. It’s happening all around us.