September 17, 2007

€œA Portrait of Gawd!
By Pastor George Van Alstine

Only long-timers in the ABC family will have a clear memory of Orlan Paulson, who was a member of the church for over fifty years. But if you mention his name to those who remember him, they are sure to smile. They may also shake their heads over some of his idiosyncrasies, but they will also smile.

One thing Orlan was known for was his books. He usually could be seen walking around with five or six books under his arm. He single-handedly kept the Archives used book store in business. Toward the end of his life in 1995, he allowed me and some other privileged friends to choose what we wanted from his shelves of old books.

Orlan introduced me to the writings of F. W. Boreham, an Australian pastor/author during the early 1900s. I don’t know how he discovered this author; I can’t find any mention of him on line.

I was just browsing through the two volumes of Boreham’s essays that Orlan gave to me, and I particularly noticed the passages he had underlined. (It used to bug me that Orlan wrote in his books, but now I was glad.) He had marked this little story Boreham told:

I was standing on the public pavement outside a picture-framer’s shop, and my nearest neighbour was a small urchin who was flattening his nose against the pane in his anxiety to inspect as closely as possible the treasures of art exposed in the window.

A moment later, an ill-kempt, coarse-looking woman shuffled up, seized his hand roughly, and proceeded to drag him away. He did his best to resist her violence, and, pointing to a delicately-executed sepia copy of one of Harold Copping’s beautiful portrayals of the face of Jesus, he demanded: ‘Who’s that?’

‘Oh, come on,’ the woman cried, impatiently, giving another savage tug at the arm of her offspring, ‘it’s a portrait of Gawd, that’s all!’ And, his powers of resistance failing, she bore him triumphantly away.

‘A portrait of Gawd!’ It sounded a trifle crude as she said it; but, reflecting on the incident during the moments of waiting that immediately followed, I was compelled to confess to myself that, all unconsciously, she had uttered a profound and sublime truth.

A little later on in the essay, Orlan had underlined this:
“Paul wrote that the ultimate revelation of God was to be found in this thorn-crowned face so beautifully portrayed in the painting on which the small boy and I were gazing this afternoon. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.â€?

Boreham went on to show the wonder of the fact that a human face, the face of Jesus, could express the glory of God:

The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus! It is a striking conjunction of phrases. The Glory of God! The Face of Jesus! Is there any word in our vocabulary more incomprehensible than the word glory? Is there anything more exquisitely human than the thought of a face? The glory of God—it dazzles us! The face of Jesus—it fascinates us! And, for those very reasons, the two go perfectly together.

And then, Boreham pointed out the ultimate surprise in Paul’s teaching—that the glory of God in the face of Jesus “has shined into our hearts.â€? So that in our hearts we carry the face of Jesus, and through the face of Jesus shines the glory of God. Wow, that’s so amazing! “A portrait of Gawd!â€?—in my heart.

Thanks, Orlan, for introducing me to F. W. Boreham, who introduced me to a new perspective on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. And thanks, Orlan, for also expressing the face of Jesus through your own loving smile.