With so much in our lives shaken by the effects of the Global COVID pandemic, with so much that is uncertain and unknown, it’s good to allow ourselves to be embraced by something, someONE so familiar! Our God, in Christ, is always the same in the eternal love which enfolds us in all our circumstances. And so, as we light the Christ candle marking our awareness of Christ with us, so we pray together:
Dear God, thank you that we don’t have to imagine you.
Thank you that not only are you with us,
but that in Christ you make it possible for us to know you
(as well as who you have made us to be) in all your loveliness.
Our prayer today is that we will catch a fresh glimpse of you
as you show yourself to us though scripture.
May we not miss you O God,
For we pray these things in Jesus’ Name
We carry SO MANY distorted images of God! My asking Google about that registered some 12.7 million hits – I didn’t bother actually following any of them, but, isn’t that crazy? What that does seem to highlight is that there are so many distortions…
Who or what is God for you? How accurate, or distorted is your current image of God? Where do you believe God is in all of this COVID-19 pandemic? Is God causing this? Can God stop it? Just what exactly is God’s role in this and in every circumstance of our world? What DO you understand God actually does best – perhaps in you, perhaps through you? And how ARE you impacted by your understanding of who and what God is, what God is doing, or not doing, even now…?
One of the main purposes of scripture is somehow to help address questions like these – not necessarily to give us final answers as to engage us, take us deeper into our relationship with God, and others, and even ourselves. It’s like we have been given this exquisitely cut, multi-facetted diamond that, as we hold up to sunlight, just dazzles with the most brilliant colour.
Scripture is that diamond and our insights into God and creation are the kaleidoscope refractions meant to stagger & astound us with sacred insight…
What we are focussing on today is just one clear and undistorted image of what scripture describes God the Holy Spirit as doing: ADVOCACY… Also translated ‘Comforter, or Helper – the one ‘called alongside’ Jesus promised his followers in vs 16 that he would ask ‘The Father’ to send them ‘ANOTHER ADVOCATE’. ANOTHER’ implying the coming of a One who would be just like he had been!
We get the aspect of who or what God is, and does, that Jesus is highlighting in the word that he uses – PARACLETE/ ‘PARA’ ‘KLETOS’ meaning PARA: ‘Alongside’ (parallel lines etc.) KLETOS: kaleo – (‘To call’)
Jesus is promising the coming of One who is like Himself – called both (1) to BE alongside us, as well as (2) who calls out FROM alongside us, on our behalf! It’s both!
Firstly then, this holiness of called down to be with us! Alongside! We say it in our Creed, how we believe that : ‘We are not alone’ …that God is with us – always! Jesus is promising nothing less than the eternal and empowering presence of the God of all Creation – now eternally with us!
Richard Rohr quotes Julian of Norwich (1343 – 1416) writing some 600 years ago: The place which Jesus takes (alongside us) in our soul he will nevermore vacate, for in us is his home of homes, and it is the greatest delight for him to dwell there. And as Jesus taught: On that day, you will know that you are in me and I am in you. (John 14:20)
This is about God called to be right here with us, meaning that there is now nowhere that we can go to be apart from that presence. There is no circumstance, no struggle, NOTHING, we are told. (Ps 139) That may sound scary because there may be things that we prefer the Holy presence of God not always to see or to know about us… But this is the promise of a One not only AT our side as ON our side: always for us – straining to heal and to love and to restore all of what we allow to unravel and become frayed, broken…
We were never intended to be the insecure, self-consumed egotists that we seem so easily to become! That’s NOT who we are – not essentially! God’s Holy Spirit with us is all about God restoring us back into all the fullness of menschlichkeit/humanity that we are & were always intended to be!
That’s what God the Father wills, it’s what Jesus works, and it’s what the Holy Spirit confirms! This infinitely loving, comforting, encouraging, empowering presence …with us, and for us! Always on our side! …and for others through us!
Is that an image you have of God? Because if whatever ‘other’ image you have is less than that, please know that what you have is probably an unhelpful distortion! Know too that it’s scriptures like this that are given to heal those distortions!
And so God as the Holy Spirit who is called to be with us! At work within us! …and who is also constantly calling out FROM alongside us! Our Advocate! This is an image of God pleading/interceding for us. Romans 8 describes this pleading as the interpretation of our deepest groaning…
All of this, then, to reveal a God who chooses not to be over us, like some draconian overlord, though I suspect at times we would prefer to have God be over us because then we would never have to take responsibility for ourselves, we could then just claim to be lackeys with no responsibility. Instead, Jesus insists in Jhn.15: ‘…no longer do I call you servants, I call you friends!’
Nor is this about a God who chooses to be below us, as if God is some kind of personal genie at our beck and call. I think that too is how we sometimes like to think, that we get to call the shots, and will continue to have faith so long as this ‘god’ we’ve created in our own image does our will!
This is about God as the One Spirit called to be ALONGSIDE! …like the creation stories where we are told that Eve was created as a partner from Adam’s side…
And so I ask again: What distortions of God must you release and replace as you allow yourself to be bathed in God’s ‘kaleidoscoping’ light refracting through today’s text?
What unhelpful images of God have you been allowing yourself to be confused or even cheated by?
Dear God, thank you in Christ, by your Spirit, for our reality of your Presence with us, within us…
Thank you for the people and circumstances that you use to reveal your presence.
Thank you for the blessing of carers and workers through this pandemic.
Be very real to those who are suffering the most…
We pray your healing comfort, encouragement and hope for all whom you so love in this world that you continue to create…
And so we pray the prayer that you, Jesus, taught, saying:
…our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those that trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, The power & the glory,
Forever and ever
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
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