I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where we find God. Growing up I thought He was in church on Sunday mornings. I believed we went through the week trying to hold on for the ride until we could find safety and refuge in church on Sunday. I suppose that’s why we are supposed to dress up nicely and behave because that’s our one interaction with Him every week and we need to make it count.
Of course, as I got older I learned that God was everywhere. Like in the kitchen, or in school, or when I was playing football. Even when I was on the loo though? I feel like God would just be like “look I know all things so I don’t really need to be there for that.”
This was a nice thought until I thought about all the horrible things that happen in the world. During war and torture? Is God there? I guess it depends on what God you believe in? Is the God of the country doing the torturing there? I’d imagine they would say yes. Is the God of the person being tortured there? I would imagine they would say a definite no.
Now I understand all the “things happen for a reason” and “God can use tragedy and pain for good” reasoning for where God is and I agree with this to some level. I certainly have grown from pain in my life and by facing it I have come to a deeper understanding and consciousness of who God is and who I am.
But most of the time when we feel like God is absent it’s not because He is absent at all but because we have become so used to and conditioned to finding God in the big moments or Sunday mornings in church or at specially designated times that we aren’t used to looking for Him in the unusual.
There’s a story in the Bible, where Elijah was looking for God. He looked everywhere. The typical places you look for things you have misplaced. A hurricane, a fire and an earthquake . And He wasn’t in any of those places. Eventually, he found him in the silence. The silence? I’m pretty sure I checked there.
Anyway, it turns out He was in the last place you would have thought to look for the almighty, omnipresent, creator of the Universe. Go figure.
When I read the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament it strikes me just how big of a Characteristic this is of God. I mean his parents physically lost Him one time as a kid.
Joseph: “Mary, where the heck is Jesus?”
Mary: “I don’t know isn’t He with you?, Last time I saw him He was with a bunch of people practicing tricks from that magic set you got Him for Christmas”
Joseph: “What magic set and what the heck is Christmas?”
But no, He was with men many years older and with far more impressive beards than him debating the meaning of the world. When I was that age, I was playing with lego and being a dick to my parents probably, but hey I’m not the Son of God.
Another time, when He was a lot older, during a particularly rough boat ride that He and the disciples were on, He was taking a nap when everyone else was going ape crazy. Later still, seemingly to make a point, they found Him walking on the water, the same water that He didn’t seem to concerned about earlier.
Jesus- Not where He is supposed to be.
Or how about the people he hung out with like tax collectors, who absolutely everyone despised? Think Arsenal supporters today. (sorry Arsenal supporters but…you’re Arsenal supporters).
Or when his disciples lost him another time (they really should be more careful) and they found him talking to a woman!! but not just any woman!, A Samaritan woman. Think talking to a female Arsenal fan. Sorry Arsenal fans but …well you get the point.
We should be seeing a pretty predictable pattern by now. That Jesus was more often than not, found where He really shouldn’t have been. (Tweet this)
We love these stories about Jesus but much has changed in 2000 years?
Think about how we as his disciples, if you want to call us that, spend most of our time looking for Jesus and God in some of the places that actually He didn’t spend too much time in when He was on Earth.
Think about all the times in your life when God seemed absent and silent. Where were you? What was going on? Where did you look for Him? Did you look for Him?
If, you’re like me, you were looking in all the wrong places. In the noise and in the Christian culture but not in the quietness. Oh God, anywhere but the quietness.
But maybe we need to take a moment to think about where we think God is. Do we really need to spend more time in our church programs or in another church service? Do we really think that listening to more Christian music or praying harder is where we are going to find Jesus speak to us. That having a remarkable grasp on theology and being right is going to make us more enlightened and more attuned to God? Do we really think that when something huge comes up in our life, that knocks us off our feet, that God will reveal Himself in pretending everything is fine and dandy.
Maybe actually God is not in the church building but is outside in the cold rain. Or maybe He is in the pub, as we share a few pints with our mates, feeling a little worse for wear. Could it also be true that the very people who sound like they are crazy are actually speaking for Jesus?
Jesus tells another story where He talks about how a man was laying, half dead on the side of the road and two men walked past, ignoring his pleas for help. A Priest, a Levite and …. Finally, a Samaritan came by. Remember them, they’re like Arsenal fans. Scum of the Earth. The Jewish people hearing Jesus story would have been preparing themselves for Jesus to tell them how the Samaritan was ready to kick the guy to death. That’s the kind of things that those scumbag Samaritans would do.
Then Jesus stuns everyone by going on to describe how the Good Samaritan (because the word good and Samaritan don’t normally go together) helped the man to his feet and gave him shelter and food and a place to lay his head which didn’t involve a rock on the side of the road.
A truly shocking story. A story that loses it’s power to our Western ears because the only Samaritans we know are the folk who answer calls from people in need of help. Those volunteers who give up their time to man phone lines are truly inspiring and generous people, so we don’t really grasp the full extent of what Jesus is saying.
Jesus is saying, you know that Muslim who lives down the street from you? She is more likely to help someone in need than many of us sitting in a church each Sunday. You know those gay people who come into your shop everyday? They are more likely to show kindness and gratitude and hope than any of us. You know the people inside the porn show who you yell and scream at about going to Hell? They are more likely to hear my message of grace and love and peace and be changed by it, than all of us who think sitting in church every Sunday will make us Holy and smelling of Roses.
Jesus whole life, whether it was by having brunch with Zacchaeus or by snoring like a baby when His best friends thought they were going to die, was about telling us that most of what we think we know about God is wrong.
We have become so accustomed to looking for God in huge conferences, or in “Rockin’ worship” or by trying harder to look Holy that we miss what is right in front of us all the time, if only we were brave enough to turn the volume down.
That God is in silence, in our pain, in the mundane moments we try and escape from by living online, in the people that we have written off as heretics or insane. God is in church, of course He is. He’s in worship that comes from deep with in us. But He’s in so much more too. (Tweet this)
He can’t be boxed into a specific type of theology or way of thinking. He won’t be seen just as long as we are in the right circles.
He’ll be found in the most surprising of places and will speak through the most surprising of people.
And yes, I’ll admit it,
He might even be in Arsenal fans too.