The Lost Radiance

Exod. 34:29.---' Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.'

When we go back to the headwaters of our faith in the first century, what is it that explains the great stream of the ages we call Christianity? Not the formation of a creed, not the foundation of a new ecclesiastical system---that has come out of the stream, it did not make the stream---not a ritual that everybody must use, not even a Book, for great as the Book is, it, too, came out of the stream, and not the stream out of the Book. When we go back to the headwaters of our faith we find a unique Person, the most complete revelation of God that our world has ever seen, the most perfect expression of human nature that history can record.

The most remarkable thing about Christianity, at its birth, was a way of life, not a system. We go back and find a religion that is essentially spiritual. It sets man's spirit free, it brings faith and vision to live by, it makes life a thrilling adventure. Everybody noticed the radiance on the faces of those first Christians. They saw that something had happened which made them different from everybody else in the world---a new level of life.

The moment Christianity becomes thoroughly alive at its heart it always has a way of doing miraculous things. It brings prodigals home. It raises life out of death. It turns sunsets to sunrises. It makes lame men walk and blind men see. It is that, that made Helen Keller the glorious woman she was. If we are to bring religion back into vital dominion over men's lives in the world today, it will not be because we know how to be very clever in argument. There is a counter-argument for every argument we can frame. The only glowing refutation of the materialism of our time, of our secular spirit, our atheism and paganisim, is a personal life that demonstrates a new power to live by. We must become experts in the interpretation of life rather than clever theorists.

We have hardly begun to reach the full significance of Christianity. We have been too busy with the periphery and not with the center of our faith. Fresh discoveries of God lay in the living testimony of the soul. Religion is not a theory, it is an experience, a life.

We should lose our conviction of the outside world here if we lost our sense-contacts with it. Imagine what would happen to us if we lost all our sense-contacts, if our eyes never saw anything or our ears heard or our fingers felt. It would not be long before the outside world would fade away and be a myth or dream. It is very much so with the reality of God. We cannot keep it vivid and vital if our conviction of the reality of God rests solely on the testimony of ancient books and documents. Imagine what it would be like if none of us had ever seen or could see sunrise or sunset, and all we knew about them was what we could find from Syrian tablets and Egyptian papyri. Well, if we expect to have religion dynamic, then God must posses us through faith that is born of first-hand experience.

The highest moments of life are those occasions when the individual soul feels aware of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God and with the environment in which it lives. We feel a call to our Divine fatherland. A vivid story in the Book of Kings tells how a young prince of Edom had to flee to Egypt to escape the ruthless slaughter of Joab, and there he prospered and became a prince in Egypt, but when he heard that his old enemy had gone to his eternal judgment he came to Pharaoh and asked that he might go back to Edom. Pharaoh asked, ' Why, what hast thou lacked?' ' I have lacked nothing,' he replied, ' howbeit let me go back to my own country.' That ' howbeit ' means everything. There is a mysterious pull of the soul that takes us toward our fatherland, and no matter how much we enjoy the secular world, "howbeit let me go back to the real country." ' I will arise and go to my Father '---that is one of the greatest words in the world. I want to be at home.

It is not a peaceful heaven we are talking about. It is not another land at all, but another level of life. It is right here in the midst of life, and there are moments when we are aware of it, when we have mutual and reciprocal correspondence with this reality, when we have a palpitating sense that the human and the Divine have come together and have found one another. When this happens we feel completely refreshed as by God's own breath. We feel that we have found something which makes us able to stand anything that can happen to us in the universe. It is as though eternity had broken into time.

This experience is much more common than most of us realize. This is no rare or accidental possibility. There are persons all about us who ' wist not that their faces shine.' In any town or village in the world you will find such persons.

But how does this kind of experience affect one's social tasks? It has often been assumed that a mystical experience, a discovery of God, acts as a kind of intoxication and carries the person into a comfortable quietism. " God's in His heaven, All's right with the world." You have to have a mighty experience to say that all's right with the world nowadays. It has been supposed by a good many persons that a mystical experience is an end in itself. A person finds God, and that is the terminus ad finem, and " let the old world stew in its juice."

Just opposite to that is the normal effect of finding God. The great mystics come back from the high mountains with an imperative sense of mission for the world. Isaiah's seraphim is a perfect symbol of the right attitude. He had six wings, and with twain he covered his face---reverence, with twain he covered his feet---humility, and with twain he did fly---activity. And Isaiah when he saw it said, ' Here am I; send me.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha