One might think that eight District Confirmation services would be an ecclesiastical chore, but they have become an unfolding and profound spiritual gift. At each service a veritable parade of confirmands assembles in the side aisle, and before they come individually to kneel before me I remind them that the Book of Genesis tells us that we have been made in the image of God. That we are imago dei. I then invite (in truth I actually insist) that they look into my eyes as I look into theirs – with the expectation that we can see into the center of each other’s souls – and see God’s image in each other.
And it happens every time. The moment lasts for only as long as it takes me to say the Confirmation prayer – maybe fifteen seconds; but on another level, it is a moment beyond time – a kairos moment (as opposed to a chronological or kronos moment, which is measured by time – and gets us to fidgeting and wondering when it will all be over). Kairos moments are moments of deep intimacy – and the intimacy is not between two people, but between two or more people and God. Writer Henri Nouwen would often say that the shortest distance between two people is God. And so it is. The Confirmation services have brought that home to me.
Now the skeptic in me – in all of us, could easily say that this is all carefully crafted liturgical drama. And it is. That it plays on my overly pliable heart strings. And they are. God is indeed in the drama – and God is in the emotions – but what makes it different from a unique moment in time – or an exercise in entertainment, is the transforming mystery and power that it brings.
Henri Nouwen would also often say that the challenge is not for us to see how we are different, but how we are the same. When we are able to look at one another in trust and acceptance we are then able to embrace the fact that we all have known, or will know – joy and pain, blessing and loss. We then become brothers and sisters to each other, bound together by a divine love we can’t exactly explain, but that we can’t live without. The dynamics and the drama play out differently for each of us, but the root experiences are the same. There has been great pressure in our world to segment and segregate ourselves from one another; to look at one another differently, if not disdainfully. To give one another but a passing glance.
The invitation is to see the image of God in the face of one another. We need to look, really look – not as a disinterested observer, but as a brother or sister. It takes practice, and a bit of commitment. And we all are changed by the community of the living Christ that is created when we dare to really see one another.