Acts 1.6-14, Psalm 68.1-10 & John 17.1-11
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where do you look for God?
Many years ago, and I wish I could remember where, I read that that people in the countryside are more likely to talk about God the Father, the Creator, surrounded as they are by the beauty of creation. In comparison, people who live in towns are more likely to speak of God the Son, Jesus, reflecting the sheer number of people they come into contact with day by day. I don’t remember God the Holy Spirit getting much of a look in.
Clearly this is a wild generalisation, but it does prompt us to reflect on how we look for God, becoming more aware of what shapes our search. It can prevent that search from being inwardly focused, or seeking out only what we agree with.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, after the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples remain rooted to the spot, staring up in the sky. It took a couple of helpful angels to prompt them to shift their gaze and get moving.
This is a rather a pattern in the Bible – people looking in the wrong place:
- Samuel looking at all the wrong brothers before God makes it clear He has chosen David.
- The Magi heading straight for Herod’s palace (where else would you find a king?), instead of following the star directly to the humble stable in Bethlehem.
- Some of the people of Israel looking for the Messiah in the form of a greta political leader, instead of the humble son of a carpenter.
Over and over again we are shown that we have to let go of our assumptions, and wait on the word of God.
By the end of the reading from Acts they’ve got it. The large circle of disciples, men and women, have gathered together to pray, to open themselves up to listening to God. And as we know with the benefit of hindsight, they will soon be visited by God the Holy Spirit – but more of that next Sunday.
It must have been hard because the disciples didn’t know how long this period of waiting would be. Unlike our church calendars, so neatly marked off with the Novena and ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ booklets, they had no idea if they would be there a few days, or indeed if anything was going to happen at all, weeks, months down the line.
For anyone who is an activist, like Peter seems to have been, always ready to jump into action, it might have been difficult to simply sit and pray. But sometimes leaping to act isn’t the right thing to do.
Sometimes being is more than enough.
Prayer, offering to God our merry praise and worship, allows us to reconnect with God, and to listen to what God is calling us to be and do; and so when we do act, we will be rooted in God. We will be closer to the prayer of Jesus, that we may be one, as Jesus and the Father are one.
It also allows the work we do to flow out of our Christian faith. Even in these days, the charitable acts we make are not just done because others do them, not just because they’re good things to do. We are answering the commands of Jesus – to provide for the poor, and to share the Good News of Jesus by sharing His light to the world.
If you feel you’ve become stuck looking in one direction, perhaps today is a good day to break your gaze, and spend a little time just being in the presence of God. Close your eyes and let God wrap you in His love. Perhaps rather than talking, instead open your heart and let God speak to you. Trust in God: the rest will follow.
(Artwork: ‘He Vanished From Their Sight’ by Harold Copping)