By Jackina Stark
I once had a vision. It was not as glorious as Isaiah’s—I can’t imagine one more glorious than that—but for me, what I saw one morning during a worship service was profoundly important. We were singing a medley of songs that ended with a beautifully melodic chorus that repeated the word holy over and over and over. I closed my eyes and got lost in the word and found, quite unexpectedly, a new understanding of who Jesus is and what holy means.
Twice in the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy,” God is perceptively called merciful and mighty. These two qualities cover just about all our needs. Mark Scott, the former academic dean of Ozark Christian College, says holy means God is totally “other” than us. This “otherness” was captured in my vision and connects to the beloved hymn.
The word might connotes power. Jesus’ power is what seemed to impress the crowds and his disciples most. And why not? The “otherness” of his power is quite astonishing. Jesus provided numerous powerful acts, showing mastery over all things that defeat mere mortals. He overcame the elements, he overcame every kind of physical impediment, and he overcame death itself.
But strangely enough, these examples of might did not show up in my vision. In my mind, I was transported not like Isaiah to the majestic, awe-inspiring throne room of God, but instead to the dusty streets where Jesus walked among us and showed us another aspect of his holiness. He is merciful as well as mighty, and his kind of tenderness and mercy seem as “other” in our world as his mastery over nature, sickness, and death.
“Holy” we sang, and I saw Jesus touching an untouchable and audacious leper and healing him. “I am willing,” he told the wounded soul. It is his theme song.
“Holy” we sang, and I saw Jesus sitting by Jacob’s well changing the life of an outcast, inviting her to drink the water he had to give, inviting her to fellowship and worship the Incarnate Word sitting beside her.
“Holy” we sang, and I saw Jesus taking a towel and basin and kneeling before his disciples, including the one who would betray him, washing their feet and showing them the full extent of his love.
“Holy” we sang, and I saw Jesus, blood-drenched, unrecognizable, hanging from a cross, taking on the sin of the world and God’s wrath in the face of it.
It is good that we come to our time of Communion and celebrate the otherness of God. It is good to remember the merciful Son who took on human likeness in order to empathize with us, console us, and heal us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is good to remember it took a cross before it was finished. It is also good to celebrate his might and remember the third day, the empty tomb, and the birth of hope.
It is good to leave this celebration wanting to resemble his otherness.
Jackina Stark is a retired Ozark Christian College English professor who lives in Branson, Missouri.