Face Value

Pastoral Messages | December 3, 2015

I sat behind an older woman at a conference the other day. Her face looked like a mountain range, beautifully contoured all the way from hairline to chin. I have no idea who this woman was, but she was more interesting than the lecture. I glanced her way every time I sat tall and tried to see the podium from the back row.

Her face bore the stamp of an expressive life. If you wear happiness and pain on the front of your head for a lifetime, the terrain of your skin is bound to reveal certain things. Every ridge and valley on this woman had a story behind it. At face value, she was beautiful, even though we know that beauty can have sorrow and pain woven beneath its surface.

There is a reason I noticed her vibrant face, and scores of others that day. Our faces give us away. We recognize each other and get a sense of one another’s character through the human face. Some people burdened with a particular lesion that grows on one cortex of the brain suffer the incapacity to recognize other faces. Prosopagnosia is the name of this cruel disorder that makes for a very hard life. Imagine having no facial recognition of your best friend from one moment to the next.

When child psychiatrist Robert Coles asked nearly 300 children to draw a picture of God, all but 38 of them drew a face. No child spent crayon energy on the elbow of God. It was the face that captured their imagination.

When a couple sorts through hundreds of wedding photos trying to decide which ones to purchase or print, they first go to facial expressions for determining the winners. The slightest twist of a jaw, or shuttering of an eyelid, can make an otherwise spectacular photograph ripe for the wastebasket.

Flakes of light caked the face of Moses as he descended Mount Sinai. “He had been talking with God,” we’re told – an encounter that would seem impossible to hide. Indeed, the skin of his face radiated light. Borrowing from a book title in our day, Moses was “wearing God.”

It could be that our faces reflect more than just who we are at any given moment; they also share something of the face of God. What a remarkable idea that God could be revealed through a human face. This may explain why the word presence in Hebrew is literally the word for face (paneh). God is tucked not just into the face of Moses but into your face and mine as well.

Another woman I met recently – not in person, but through a photograph – was sitting on a street curb outside a café in central Paris. With watery eyes and cheeks resting in her hands, she looked up and out with a blank and sad stare. A journalist took the photo the day after the Paris killings last month. This woman, who must have been in her 30s, was wearing the face of God. God appeared both sad and dismayed on this day, bearing a face curiously older than 30-something. I can only guess at what she was thinking. “Can it be true that people actually blow themselves up with dynamite? On purpose? Not in a farm field but as close to as many other people as possible?”

Yes, it’s true. And God’s eyes get wet every time. I saw it on the face of that young woman sitting on the curb.

Christians have long claimed that Jesus Christ is the face of God. From this Nazarene we gain access to the character and personality of God. Study the great Renaissance paintings of the birth story in Bethlehem and all of the focused light is on the Christ Child’s face. It radiates light.

Jesus looks up and out at his mother’s face, as every infant does, hoping to learn trust and discover love. It turns out that those who peered back at him in the manger began to look strangely like Moses. Their faces “wore God,” which may beg the question of us: What do our faces reflect these December days? Is there any chance your face resembles the joy, delight, and anguish of God all comingled? If it is possibly that expressive, you have one stunningly beautiful mountain range taking shape on the front of your head.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

One comment on “Face Value”

  • Tom Hebbeln

    December 3, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Possibly…but one thing for sure, my nose surely resembles Mt. Everest!

Leave a Reply to Tom Hebbeln Cancel Reply

Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”