April 20th 2008
Where do you find God?
Where in the last week, or month, have you found God? Or felt God to be with you in a special way? Or seen the hand of God at work?
Perhaps you want to share something? Lets encourage one another with our experiences?
I honestly don’t think we talk enough about where God, and indeed where we have felt God isn’t in our lives. We are encouraged in Scripture to build one another up, Ephesians 4 verse 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen
We should share the Good news with one another, not just the Good news of salvation, but the good news of God at work now in our lives and in our hearts. We must, says the Bible, encourage and admonish one another with our actions and our words. Colossians 3 gives a long list of what we should and should not be doing as Christ’s body, those who have been raised from the death of sin to the new life of Jesus Christ…
And when we do this, in meeting together we meet with God. We believe, of course, that God is with us in all of our lives, but there are times when God needs us to listen to him to open ourselves to him – and one of those times is when we give ourselves to him and to one another in worship together.
But to return to my core theme for this evening, I want us to think about where we meet God. In what ways does God speak to us today in our lives.
This morning in the baptism that took place here I talked about finding the way which Jesus offers us through study of our bibles, through prayer and worship. But there are opportunities for God to speak to us in every part of life. Or rather, God will take every opportunity to speak with us that he can!
I don’t usually say things in Latin, but I have found a phrase in reading a book by the late Bishop Hugh Montefiore which says something very profound:
omnis revelation secundum modum recipientis – any translations? Well, Montefiore says this means ‘the mode of divine revelation is always accommodated to the assumptions of those who receive it’. Or perhaps it would be better say – if we are open to it, God will speak to us in a way we understand!
Perhaps even more clearly:
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
If we long to meet with God, God will meet with us!
As God’s people we should be open to God’s touch in every part of life, especially, perhaps, in the places where we wouldn’t expect it. If we remember the parable of the sheep and Goats in Matthew 25
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'God can surprise us, if we let him! If we are living those lives which we are admonished to live by St Paul in the letter to the Colossians chapter 3, or in Chapters 4 & 5 of Ephesians then we will find ourselves receptive to his grace and his touch.
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
I think there is some confusion as to how we expect God to speak to us. When people talk of meeting God we often hear quoted the story of Elijah on the run in 1 Kings 19.9-13 where God appears…
9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
Elijah Meets God at Horeb
11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
We do need to still ourselves before God, to take moments of silence. In a busy world full of other voices which clamour for our attention the very act of slowing can often be a physical and spiritual form of turning towards God and allowing him to speak to us. I have to admit that I feel somewhat hypocritical saying this on one of the busiest and most chaotic days I have had for a while, and that, to be honest, as a Clergyperson I don’t tend to model stillness and silence terribly well. Yet I appreciate the value of silence of taking time to pray, and will sometimes make a point, no matter how busy I am of taking time to pray and read and just to be before God. I think our lifestyle in this day mediates against this and the very act of stopping is a counter-cultural statement!
But, and I hope some of you will find this encouraging, silence is not the only way that we meet with God. God will meet us in our singing and worship in Church (yes, I do believe that God is sometimes allowed a part in the life of the Church!), God will meet us as we reach out to the needy in his name and for his sake, God will meet us as we share the Good news of Jesus with friends, neighbours and work colleagues, God will meet us as we exercise, drive, relax, work, play, pray, eat, dance, sing, hold our children or the ones we love, as we think, read, laugh and cry.
But we must have that grounding in Christ in order to do that.
When Philip asks ‘show us the father’ in John 14, which was one of the readings set for this Sunday, we can almost see Jesus rolling his eyes as he responds in verse 9 "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father...
If we are going to meet God we need to do so through the one who is the way to the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord. We need to be grounded in him in order that we may meet God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we look at this passage from John 14 I want to try and answer a question that comes up again and again when people read these words of Jesus. At the end of this passage Jesus says in verse 14 ‘whatever you ask in my name I will do’ – and people often seem to think that this means the prayer for a nice new shiny black leather jacket or a car, or a house or health or wealth will be answered as long as we do this in faith and tag a phrase like ‘in Jesus’ name’ at the end.
When Jesus talks of asking in his name, he means that we adopt his name for ourselves, or that we align himself with his will and his way of doing things. To take on the name of someone in days past meant to completely subjugate oneself to their will. So when in a movie we hear ‘open up in the name of the king’ it is being said by someone who has the absolute authority of the king, authority given to them by virtue of the fact they are acting in place of the king and entirely within the will of the ruler whose name they speak on behalf of.
It’s the same with God, if we want to meet with him and we speak in the name of Jesus, its not about having a magic phrase or formula which can give us what we want. It’s about aligning ourselves with him and his will. It means that when we pray ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ we are opening ourselves up to being a part of that happening. we are giving ourselves to working to the aim of God’s reign coming to earth and his will being foremost on earth just as it is in heaven!
So we come here to meet with God, and we pray in the name of Jesus in order that we may know his will and live his way. If we want to grow in our faith we must give ourselves completely to him, if we want to meet with the father we must ask, and we must seek, and we must knock on the door of heaven. The barriers to God speaking to us aren’t usually put up by God! More often than not they are to do with our own sinfulness, with issues we need to hand over to God and stop holding on to so tightly, with our lack of expectation that God wants to speak and to act within our own lives.
If we want God to speak to us, in this service, in our churches, in our lives, then lets expect him to, and lets give him leave to do so. Lets make time to be with God, lets long for God to speak to us, and lets listen when he tries to, whatever way he might decide to do so. And lets listen to each other, for in hearing how God is working in our lives we can be encouraged and built up in Christ, and knowing where we feel the strain, where we need help we can pray for one another and help one another in Christ’s name.
May God meet with you tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, and always….