Tag Archives: presence

Where is God in All This?

MartinHandfordWally&Friends” by http://waldo.wikia.com. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

When our son was younger, he enjoyed the ‘Where’s Wally’ books.  The premise being to look at a picture full of people and objects, and try to find the one person, Wally, in it.  This often meant a long time searching trying to see where he was.  To quote a phrase, he was “hidden in plain sight”, always there, but not always easy to spot.

Sometimes God seems like that.  We’re told he’s there, but we don’t always notice him, can’t always see him.  In fairness, we’re not even always looking.

It can be easy to jolly along through life, we don’t always stop and think.  We are busy surviving and dealing with all life throws at us – good, bad and indifferent.  But every so often something happens to make us really stop and think about some of the bigger questions.  Sometimes these are joyful events, like the birth of a child or the wonder of creation; often they are more catastrophic, personally or in the wider community.

Whether coming from a faith stance or not, the question comes –

where is God?

Perhaps this crops up most when there is a disaster, then everyone wants to know how God can let this happen.  The age-old question, if God is all loving and all-powerful – how, why?

Well, to my mind, God wouldn’t be much of a God if he was only there in the nice bits of life.  Anyone can rock up when times are going well.  Everyone wants to be your friend and companion.  You discover who your true friends are when life is a struggle.  The same is true of God.  Just because times are tough, doesn’t mean he has disappeared.  He is there with us in the dross, the difficulties, in the traumas, when we feel we can’t go on any longer – and that is when he shows his true love and worth.  He is with us in giving us his strength; but he is with us also in those around us, those who carry us and support us when we can no longer do it for ourselves.  God is there, and he carries on being there – when we know we need him, and when we don’t realize it.

I return again and again to this passage, as regular readers will know:

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIVUK)

17 Though the fig-tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

God is God, not just of the good, bountiful times, but the times of desolation and emptiness too.  He is the strength and life when nothing else is.  The God amongst the barrenness.  The God who still is there when everything else fails.  A God who has been there himself.

This prayer from the Methodist Prayer Handbook, sums up some of this, the God of struggle and pain:

Loving, living God,
you come to our world as light shining in our darkness.
Through Jesus, your Son, our Saviour, you offer our world
the bright burning flame of hope
which neither fear, nor doubt,
neither cynicism, nor despair can ever extinguish.
Yet that hope which is ours is no rose-tinted optimism:
it is a hope forged in the pain of the servant hanging on a cross.
Because of his life, death and resurrection we live in hope today.
So, Lord, this day may we live in that hope,
and work that the hope which is ours may be made real for all. Amen.

James Booth, Liverpool District Chair

Where is God?  Right here, in the middle of whatever is happening in your life and mine, crying, holding, strengthening, lifting, just being with – wherever and however we need him.

And that ladies and gentlemen is my 1000th blog.  I decided to use it to “preach the one sermon”.  It’s a theme I often return to, but the one that comes from my heart and my life.  It’s not the best of me that I might want it to be, but life is not in that place at the moment, so it comes very much from where I am and how I am.

Like all I do, it is offered to you and to God to take and use as wished (and that isn’t meant to be as pious as it sounds – sorry!)  That’s all any of us can do at any time – come to God from where we are, because he is there with us too.

So I can only finish with the hymn that sums it all up, even if I use if often

 

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Enduring Love iv

Deuteronomy 4:1-9 (CEV)

 Israel Must Obey God

Moses said:

Israel, listen to these laws and teachings! If you obey them, you will live, and you will go in and take the land that the Lord is giving you. He is the God your ancestors worshiped, and now he is your God. I am telling you everything he has commanded, so don’t add anything or take anything away.

You saw how he killed everyone who worshiped the god Baal Peor. But all of you that were faithful to the Lord your God are still alive today.

5-8 No other nation has laws that are as fair as the ones the Lord my God told me to give you. If you faithfully obey them when you enter the land, you will show other nations how wise you are. In fact, everyone that hears about your laws will say, “That great nation certainly is wise!” And what makes us greater than other nations? We have a God who is close to us and answers our prayers.

You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well.

Faithful God,
how can I forget
the things I have seen you do?
The miracles,
the wonders,
but especially
your presence in the everyday –
reassuring,
comforting,
challenging,
bringing hope.

And as I remember you,
know you with me everyday,
how can I not
but long
to do what you ask of me,
to live your ways,
for my life to reflect
your way of living.

For I want to live
my life in fullness,
fullness of all you have for me.
You are faithful
and fair in all things,
you are ever near
and always ready to listen,
you answer my prayers
in ways I recognise
and in ways
I don’t yet see.

Help me not to forget you.

Faithful God,
may I be faithful to you,
in your strength
and your enduring love

Here is Love

Living Together

A grandiose building plan. A fabulous place to live.  Everything you could want.  And then the light dawns…

The Lord’s Message to David

King David moved into his new palace, and the Lord let his kingdom be at peace. Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, “Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord is with you, so do what you want!”

That night, the Lord told Nathan to go to David and give him this message:

David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me? I didn’t live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don’t live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them. I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?

David, this is what I, the Lord All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people. Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.

10 I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won’t have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won’t bother them, as they did 11 when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you.

Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings. 12 I’ll choose one of your sons to be king when you reach the end of your life and are buried in the tomb of your ancestors. I’ll make him a strong ruler, 13 and no one will be able to take his kingdom away from him. He will be the one to build a temple for me. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son.

David has a sudden attack of guilt.  He has built himself a beautiful palace.  He had gone to a lot of trouble and expense, and when he thinks about it, he feels bad that he has left God, the sacred chest, out in a tent.

But God speaks to him quite clearly.  He doesn’t want a special Temple building.  He doesn’t want a special place. He has always lived in a tent, among the people.

Whilst David’s intentions might be good, God wants to be with his people, where they are, not put away in a special place.   God wants to be one with his people, living with them, going where they go – not stuck in a building.  He was where they were, if a permanent structure was built, the people would have to come to him – a huge shift in the kind of relationship God had with his people.

Later a Temple was built, and with it a whole list of rules about how God could be accessed.  He was no longer there amongst them, but behind several walls – and it took God a long time, and Jesus, to break back out of it!

As we think of our lives, how do we want it?  Do we want God in a special place, somewhere where we have to go to him, or living with us where we are.

How are you going to make that happen in your life and your community?

Thank you Lord

that you are where I am,

you are not an aloof God,

living in a special building;

but a God who is about and about,

in all the places where your people,

everyone,

is.

Help me to remember that.

That you are in the everyday,

and not just the “special”,

and to live that way.