Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
So, where did you find God today?
Sadly, in this country, whilst churchgoing used to be a habit of the majority, it has become a hobby of the few. Organised religion seems, to many people, to have lost its relevance to modern living. It is distrusted and discredited in their eyes. Many people, including growing numbers of once faithful church goers view Christianity as a religious institution and reject it. If you asked the man in the street where he saw God today I suspect the answer would be on the lines of: “I don’t believe in that superstitious mumbo jumbo. It’s for the old fogeys who like to put on their Sunday best to go to church and feel superior to the rest of us. If your God is so loving and merciful, as you say he is, why did he inflict this coronavirus pandemic on us? And if you tell me he didn’t, then why did he not do something to stop it? Why? I’ll tell you why. Because he doesn’t exist! Now go away and stop bothering me.”
Since the pandemic has devastated the whole world bringing suffering, and in some cases death, to so many people, whilst many have lost their jobs, their homes, their loved ones, you can understand why he might say this. And as I write these words on Holy Saturday I am reminded of another name for this day – the day of absence. The last year or so has felt like one long Holy Saturday; Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah is dead, horribly crucified on Good Friday. He has gone, left us alone. ‘He descended into Hell’ as we repeat each time we pray the Apostles Creed. This all seems to confirm the anguished cry of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) “God is dead! God is dead! And we have killed him!” Some years ago Cardinal Ratzinger, as he was then wrote a meditation on Holy Saturday, in fact he wrote three but I will quote from just one. He reminds us of the Gospel story wherein Jesus is asleep in a boat which buffeted by a storm is about to sink. He wrote:
‘God sleeps while his very own are about to drown –is not this the experience of our lives now? The disciples cry out in dire desperation and shake the Lord to wake him but he is surprised and rebukes them for their small faith. But are things any different for us?’ Once the storm has passed we will realise our stupidity in thinking that God has abandoned us.
He is with us now as he always has been and always will be. He has promised that: ‘He will never leave or forsake you.’ Deuteronomy 31:8 Now let us be clear the Cardinal did not say that Jesus did not die on Good Friday but simply slept. He was using this Gospel story to illustrate our own lack of faith. This I think is the whole crux of the matter. Without faith in God we can never acknowledge him, never see him. Yet faith can be fallible, we are, after all, only human. Indeed, even Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest companions had his doubts. You will remember that Jesus asked him: ‘Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.’ John 20:26. Yet too often we say as the boy’s father said: ‘I believe Lord. Help thou mine unbelief’ Mark 9:24
So let me ask you that question again. Where did you find God today? Perhaps you have received a phone call from a long lost friend or a kind word from a neighbour or maybe a stranger. Now we are able to mix a little more there will be even more opportunities to witness God in our everyday lives. And here is just one other example; one which more than one of you will expect me to use. Last week I mentioned that I had spent some time working in the garden. Some years ago we planted daffodil bulbs in the front lawn so that each year at this time we, and anyone passing by will see ‘a host of golden daffodils…. Fluttering and dancing in the breeze’ as Wordsworth put it. Yes, God is there in the garden, too.
So our task this week is twofold. Firstly, to ask ourselves each day, where did I see God today and to give thanks for it, but secondly to show God to others in our lives and actions so that ‘they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ Matthew 5:16 AKJV
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years