Where will today begin and end, does it matter all that much, well yes it does to me for I like clarity and order and yet today I dare to be different. How will that affect you, well you may have to jump from place to place like coming down a river bed, choosing the rocks that you land on with care, yet knowing your faith in God will bring you safely back to your place.
Last week we were given a brief insight into the work of Prince Devananden as a missionary in the Solomon Islands. The innocence of the children, their joy at the simple things of life resonated with me, as a place I would like to feel I was at in life. Yet it feels as if so many hiccups occur every day and I get so distracted from my goals. On the beach the children played with simple made on the spot games, like the diving over the high jump and tumbling in the waves, a ball made out of anything that resembled a ball and with a little more effort toy boats carved from wood. Their enthusiasm while they sang in Sunday school reminded me of a time when we had such, dare I say, enthusiasm in our children attending Sunday school. Life would be like a picnic every day, you meet up with friends, learn about things together, sharing the responsibility for each other and if there are worries or weather woes they will be taken care of. All of the competitiveness or covertness that we see around us just does not seem to exist. As I replayed the video shots in my mind I felt carried back to days where I played on the beach and swam at the river mouth with my friends and our older brothers and sisters, the shared responsibility to take care of each other. When treats were treats, doled out on special occasions to be savoured and swapped sometimes if you friend had something different. And when you experience the joy of meeting an old friend you feel as if it was just yesterday that you were together. You laugh over things you did and reveal things about your relationships with other friends parents.
And you notice the new milestones of our lives. Children, grandchildren, wear and tear on bodies, adventures had without you in the picture and you have no fear of if you will see them again or not, you hope you will but you realise the frailty of life and in wisdom gained over time acknowledge that the encounter may not be repeated. With God it is different, he is eternal and unseen, yet he has such a driving force in our lives in ways that we so quickly pass over and often don’t acknowledge the effect he has had on us at any one time. Would life be any different for us now, if we knew where or how God exists, well God trusts us that we accept that all in this world wouldn’t be here if we did not have a maker, if we could not believe in the unseen in this life but who will guide us through it into the next stage. In our reading from Genesis we heard of the struggle between Jacob and God in the form of a man. There are some amazing accounts of how people encounter God, the common thread running through is that these encounters have a lasting effect, that not only alters the life of the person who encounters God but also those who surround them. So why are we reluctant to testify to our encounters with God, I guess it is fear of ridicule but as well as that there is the fact that we are not all gifted with the skills needed to talk openly and freely with others of something so personal. And it is deeply personal.
After recently attending an Alpha course it has become quite clear that there are several ways of dealing with our spiritual relationship. A wide range of people were interviewed, many saying they didn’t know much about the teachings of Jesus and the significance or relevance of the bible in today’s world. That was fine by me; I went to Alpha to further my lack of knowledge. Plus how could I recommend a course to other’s if I failed to understand the concept for myself. A bit like trying to run a business when you don’t know enough about or believe in the product you want to sell. One young woman said she wasn’t a believer but she went to a local church for the fellowship and friendships that it provided her with. And those of us listening had a little laugh, yet at the end of the video in the time for discussion the majority of us seemed to find it hard to open up about what we thought in response to questions from the group leaders.
One of the hymns we sing at times is "I the Lord of sea and sky. I have heard my people cry." and down a bit, "Who will bear my light to them, whom shall I send?" The response of the refrain says "Here I am Lord, is it I lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart."
I will go Lord if you lead me. God does not give us all the same gifts and he chooses carefully who he sends. So don’t be alarmed that you will be asked to do something beyond what you believe you are capable of doing.
John Milton an English poet once wrote
When I consider how my light is spent,And we too can serve God without grand gestures.
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Earlier I mentioned milestones in relation to old friends, we have been watching our grandson as he reaches some milestone almost daily. At 16 weeks our daughter in law posted a picture of him and sent it to friends and family and our niece showed it to me. I jokingly asked her who it was as she had been filling me in on the babies of some of her friends. Her response was don’t you recognise your own grandson! Well of course I’d recognise him anywhere after all he is indelibly printed on my brain. But what I wanted to point out is that as we grow older we still reach milestones, some obvious other more subtle as some of us slow down a bit, see a bit less clearly or hear a bit less than we used to. Well I know I have a problem with hearing, as I age it is getting a little more obvious to me and I have been asking God for a bit of help lately, however I decided that I needed to ask Him the turn the volume up a bit as I was worried I wasn’t getting his message as clearly as I hoped. If you find yourself in the same boat I think God is actually saying focus a bit harder on ME! I send you help when you need it, I choose what help in whatever shape and form I see fits you best. Don’t choose to send it away because you have too much pride to see I am gifting you the help you asked for. While you may not even be aware of needing or asking for help God sees everything we do or don’t and the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
As with our readings from Matthew, we, like Jesus are not always meant to be alone. Like Jesus we find we want time to be by ourselves, to lose ourselves in contemplation, and sometimes that just doesn’t happen. People turn up and there is an expectation on us that we will be as considerate as we usually are.
Jesus wanted time to mourn John, his cousin and yet he found himself surrounded by hundreds of people and after spending the day healing the sick and talking to those gathered around Jesus found the means with which to meet one more need, that of hunger of those waiting people. He took five loaves of bread and two fish, and while people took food, the basket refilled and at the end of the day there was more food left over than when he started.
Quite often help is not easy to discern when we are not expecting it, we may see it as an intrusion, however the reality is we don’t know what we may fall into when we rely on our own strength to set our world to right. When our daughter died I would often find myself with a cup of coffee, crying. Yes I was sad but there was also a loneliness and lack of the routine that we had to establish in order for the home to be a home, for the boys to have the stability they needed.
On a number of days our phone would ring and a friend would ask me how I was, one in particular would know I wasn’t as good as I said I was and she would just tell me she was calling in, we would sit one on either side of the coal range with a steaming hot drink and laugh and cry together and when the time came she moved on to her next project. God provides people in our lives who come for a short time and show us the care and compassion that he feels for us, to have something physical to hold on to when our need is great and we cannot hear him over the tumult going on about us. As everything calms down we are able once again to tune in after prayer, to hear what God has in store for us, we are able to look about and wonder in the glory that is God, to recognise the spirit indwelling us and guiding all that we do. Drawing us into a closer more meaningful relationship with our creator that will restore our flagging spirits and uplift us as we deal with all the inequities we see around us, and question endlessly where the world is going. Bind yourself in God’s armour and continue to pray for a better relationship between those around us, for all people of faith to come together and cast out those who seek to destroy all that they hold dear. We have walked a better faith path in the past help us to restore our faith path so it may continue for those coming behind us.
May God grant us a understanding of this message for today and the courage to stand firm in our faith. Amen