A sunset and the eyes of a stranger

August 19, 1951 – on my baptism day, Grandma Charlotte (holding me) flanked by her twins, Elinor (aka” Mom”) and Elmer.

“Some people think You just live in cathedrals made of stone/ But I know you live inside my heart, I know that it’s your home./  And I’ve seen you in a sunset and the eyes of a stranger on the street./  That’s who You are to me.”- Chris Tomlin

“Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; LORD, they walk in the light from your face.  They rejoice in your name all day long, and they are exalted by your righteousness.”- Psalm 89:15-16 (CSB)

My baptism took place at home on August 19, 1951.  Reverend Hartman of Windsor Park Lutheran Church officiated.  Sponsors included my Uncle Elmer and my father’s sisters, Aunts Marion and Ruth.  In addition, my Milwaukee relatives couldn’t arrive in time for a church service.  However, Grandma Charlotte came to Chicago shortly after my birth to help care for me.

Mom and Dad chose my name from the Bible.  As a toddler, I asked about my name.  Mom told me they named me for a king and that David meant ‘beloved.’  Above all, throughout my childhood, Jesus’ love flowed through my parents’ daily nurture and witness.  Furthermore, Elmer, Marion, and Ruth took their roles as sponsors seriously – providing integral support.

In his book The Good Life, Dr. Derwin Gray examines the Beatitudes.  First, Dr. Gray underscores, Jesus personified happiness during his thirty-three years on earth.  And, Jesus issued us a royal invitation to experience His kind of happiness as citizens of His kingdom.  What God’s people live like on earth.  In fact, the Greek word for ‘blessed,’ makarios, also means to exist in a state of happiness.  Also, writing in The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard  insightfully noted that makarios  describes the highest type of well-being possible for human beings.  Thus, through His life’s example, Jesus empowers us to walk the way of happiness.  To see God in a sunset and the eyes of a stranger.

Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:3-12 paints a beautiful portrait of what it looks like to love God, self, and our neighbor.  New Testament scholar Scot McKnight refers to this as the Jesus Creed.  While theologian Ken Boa calls it ‘Upward, Inward, and Onward’:

  1. Upward – we move in the direction of knowing God better as we (a) listen to the Holy Spirit in the words of Scripture and (b) speak to the Lord in our thoughts and prayers.  The better we know God, the more we love Him.  And, our increased love enables us to respond to Him in greater trust and obedience.
  2. Inward – God’s Word, not the world, defines us.  Therefore, Jesus meets our deepest needs for security, significance, and satisfaction.  Not people, possessions, or positions.
  3. Onward – the biblical view of our identity and resources in Christ walks us in the direction of loving others with compassion.  As a result, grasping this truth frees us from bondage to the opinions of others.  Because we now possess the liberty to love and serve others without regard to their response.

Finally, Dr. Gray offers these words of hope, to help us see God in a sunset and the eyes of a stranger.  He exhorts:

“Jesus had a transcendent happiness that gave him confidence and purpose.  His happiness rooted him in something deeper, better, and more beautiful than his circumstances.  Jesus’ circumstances were not the cause of his happiness, nor did they add or subtract from his happiness; they were the window through which he expressed his happiness (emphasis author’s).”

About the author

Dave Henning

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