Green Man

July 17, 2012

Excerpt from Psalm 68:24-35

"Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord.  O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens…"

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

In the cathedral in Bamberg, Germany stands the Bamberg Horseman, a statue that has watched over that place for about 800 years now.  There are lots of cool reasons to like it, as a quick glance at the Wikipedia article will tell you, but the best reason isn't the rider or the horse; it's what's holding them up.

The left-hand corbel is a boring old piece of rock.  The right-hand one, however, is extraordinary.  A face made of acanthus leaves pushes out from the wall of stone, looking around cannily.  He is one of the mysterious green men who haunt Western Europe's medieval churches and cathedrals.  (Click on the link above for a closeup of him.)

The Psalmist says that God is like the horseman, riding through the heavens on a mighty charger, all filled with dignity and power.  Psalmists always like to imagine God in such kingly ways, not least because they were often writing their Psalms under kings' commissions. 

Perhaps because I'm not a king myself, I say God's less like the horseman and more like the green man who supports him.  Quiet, but powerful.  Easy to overlook with all the pomp going on above him, but completely arresting once you notice him.  Green and alive, but unchanging as stone.

Beautiful, and dangerous, and the foundation of everything.

Prayer

God, there is pomp everywhere: horsemen and crowned heads, fancy clothes and displays of power.  Give me eyes to see beneath it all, to the green, living, beautiful, dangerous one holding it all up: you.  Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell, a United Church of Christ minister, is the co-author, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.

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