For a man who worked, most likely with his hands, who worked outside, who perhaps tended the very trees he now rests beneath, this moment was neither unfamiliar, nor unwelcome, to Nathaniel. The scripture offers testimony, later from the lips of the Lord himself, that he was an honest man in whom one could not find the slightest measure of guile of conceit. As this working man's hands cool and unkink from the morning's labors, as his mind relaxes into his prayers and hopes for his orchard and for the world.... What are his thoughts?
Put your back against the smooth bark of that fig tree. Rest your hips and legs in the natural folds of the roots that interlace and dig into the earth. Feel the cool breeze that rests with you beneath those sap-heavy leaves and branches, even as the midday sun pools heat just past your out-stretched feet. Breath in the scent of your drying, hard-earned sweat, the faint remnant of lunch, the fragrance of figs as they ripen under the same rays of the sun under which you will return soon to labor.
What are your thoughts?
You give thanks for this moment, for all those moments that are both earned through labor and gifted by God's grace. You are both part of this peace, and deeply aware as well how fleeting these moments really are in the greater span of a human life. The peace of this moment is wonderful, but it is also poignant. For you, it will end soon and you will rise and work again. For others, they have not known this peace in a long time....for some, they have never known it. Even as you are grateful, you are aware that the world is not yet: it is not yet whole; not healed; waiting for the one who will deliver, make whole, heal.
Now, what was a moment of peace becomes a moment of yearning prayer. How long?
If only the wonder were at how long to THIS harvest, to THAT fig being ripe. It is more than that short span, though; how long must it be before this peace that is even now fading away becomes one that is how we begin, experience and end the day? How long before we know an age of peace like that peace? How long must we long for that moment? How many times must we know it is only just a breath away, and yet always a breath away?
We stand, dust off hands that are still clean from being cleansed for the meal that lies in ruin at our feet. We rise, and set aside the ruminations of gratitude and yearning, the prayers half-dreamed that deliverance is not far off but instead near. We step from cool shade into the rising heat and ready ourselves for the accumulation of tasks completed and fatigue reclaimed that will mark the end of another day....and then....and then.....
He is there. HE looks deep into our eyes.
I know, he says. I saw you...I heard you.
Today is the day.
Come and see.
In that moment?
I know whose I am. I know that now is the time. Here is the place....
We are known. We are refreshed. We are called. We are named...and claimed.
Christ's own, forever.
Whose are you?