Mid-week Pastor’s Update 8-10-2022

Please read (or at least scroll) to the end of this update to see important announcements, such as a celebratory potluck for a recent wedding, and an up-coming change of Pr. Mark’s role.

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

August 10th, 2022

“When Gideon realized that it was the angel of YHWH, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign YHWH! I have seen the angel of the YHWH face to face!” But the YHWH said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” Judges 6:22.

Something happened to me twice last week that was pretty remarkable to me. I’m sure it’s happened to you too, but we may not realize how profound it really is. I was at an airport, and had gotten a bit separated from my group at the security check area. So, once I got through, I was scanning the faces, just to see if I could spot one or more of them. Instead of finding one of them, my sight caught another face, the face of another man I’d been in a seminar with that week. Among hundreds of faces, my brain caught that one in an instant. Since I’d seen him recently, though, so I smiled and shrugged to myself and moved on.

But then, on Sabbath at church, it happened again, with a man I hadn’t seen in more than 8 years! I was greeting some visitors sitting toward the back of the church, and when I came to the last one, I recognized him and said, “I know we’ve met before”, but couldn’t place where and under what circumstances. He said, “I am Pastor James, who invited you to come speak at the medical center college in the Philippines back in 2014.” I was shocked, and pleasantly surprised to see him! And he was surprised to see me too, not having known this was my church: he was just looking for an SDA church near Disneyland, as he was bringing some guests to SoCal for a few days. What a happy coincidence!

But this really made me think of our brain’s face-filing and scanning abilities. I hadn’t thought of this man in months, if not years. But as soon as I saw him, I knew I’d met him. And if I’d had 30 seconds to think about it, I might have been able to place where I knew him from. (I almost surely would have if his hair were darker, as it had grayed significantly over the years (as has mine!)).

But think about it: you obviously can recall the faces of your family, friends, and acquaintances just now, but how many ‘face files’ do you have in your memory? Thousands? Likely. Tens of Thousands? Possibly. Yet, whenever we’re in a crowd, our brains are always running this scanning program in the background to see if we recognize anybody. And we can tell in an instant if we do. And only very occasionally are we fooled for a moment, having to take a “double-take” at somebody to see if they’re who we think for a moment they are.

It doesn’t seem like faces would be so variable that there could be billions of distinct ones. The combinations of two eyes, a nose, mouth, eyebrows, ears, hair color and style seem like several dozen or perhaps a few hundred variations could be formed, yet our brains imprint thousands if not tens of thousands of particular faces to constantly test new faces against. Surely, facial and body proportions, particularity of voice sounds, etc. help our brains in the discernment process.

This is so remarkable! It is yet another reason for me to exclaim “God is great!”. I mentioned this on Sabbath afternoon at Sociedad de Jovenes, and for our Bible activity, we brainstormed stories in which recognizing faces (or perhaps disguising faces, only later to be recognized) played a significant role. We thought of several: Tamar disguising herself to lure Judah to impregnate her (Genesis 38), Jacob disguising himself to fool his blind father and get his brother’s blessing (Genesis 25), Jacob getting tricked by Laban into marrying Leah instead of Rachel (Genesis 29), Joseph recognizing his brothers, but them not recognizing him (Genesis 42 – gee there are a lot of these in Genesis!), and Obadiah recognizing Elijah after some years (1 Kings 18).

Significance of recognition (or non-recognition) comes up in the New Testament too: Three times after Jesus is resurrected, he is not recognized: Mary Magdalene in the Garden doesn’t recognize him at first (John 20), the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus don’t recognize Jesus’ face or voice for some hours (Luke 24), and the 7 disciples who went fishing didn’t recognize him at first either (John 21). In each of these, it’s not known whether some form of ‘supernatural cloaking’ was involved, or simply if factors of distance, shroud-wearing, or just the perceived impossibility of it possibly being Jesus factored in, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder.

And then, of course, there’s the big one. Though it is our central longing to, none of us have seen the face of our Lord (1 John 4:12), but one day we will know the particularities of his features. We will see the proportions, the factions, the specific creases of Jesus’ faith, as Revelation 22:3b-4 says “His servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads”

That will be a face to burn into our memories! Even more strongly than our own mothers’ faces, whom we see and imprint on within minutes of being born. That face, that sweet face of Jesus, the one who made us, saved us, and will live forever with us will be indelibly marked on not only our minds, but our souls.

I finish with the text to the beloved hymn “Face to Face”. Slowly sing it to yourself now, as a way to savor how precious that will be.

Face to face with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face, what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me?

Face to face shall I behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkening veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

Face to face shall I behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory
I shall see Him by and by!

May God bless you and your families this week, and may he hold us tightly in the community of faith, until we see him, face to face.


Pr. Mark Tatum

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