Week Two: God of the in-between times
Our scripture reading today: Matthew 4: 18 – 22.
Today’s passage describes Jesus calling four of his disciples – Peter, Andrew, James and John. Apart from what they did for a living, we know very little about the early lives of any of these disciples. In the same way, we actually know very little of what Jesus did in the first 30 years of his life. I challenged myself to see God in everything I saw. An unshaven man walked past, pushing an empty pushchair and smoking a cigarette. I walked past a small school, where I could hear the laughter of children. I noticed an impressive school garden that had been immaculately tended by teachers and pupils. A woman, dressed all in white, came out of a shop clutching an enormous bottle of Coke and a small bottle of vodka. A friendly old lady came over and started chatting to me, and, as I looked back at her rough skin and dirty clothes, I saw God’s light shine through her eyes. As I got back in the car, I thanked God for allowing me to see his light despite the rain and mess. I thanked him for being there in the ordinariness of that journey back to the car.
It is relatively easy to see God in the special, uplifting moments in our lives, and we also find ourselves meeting him in the difficult and painful times. But God is to be found in the in-between times, too, in the missing years. ‘Life, in it’s humdrum sense, is worth avoiding’, bleakly asserts 80’s rock star Morrissey in the biopic England is mine (2017). As Christians, the challenge is not to avoid those times, but rather to open our eyes to discovering God in those ordinary moments. In the book The Old Ways (Penguin, 2012), Robert MacFarlane describes a walk that he had made a thousand times before, in the field by his house. But this time he was walking at night, after it had been snowing all day. His eyes were opened anew to the beauty and the wonder of that pathway. He writes, ‘The snow caused everything to exceed itself and the moonlight caused everything to double itself’.
Our lives have occasional highs and occasional lows, but, most of the time, they can be rather mundane. As Christians, we need to remember that God is present in the everyday, ordinary moments of our lives. Our God is also the God of the in-between times. He is the God of the humdrum, the monotonous and the commonplace. With him, those moments don’t stay mundane. He brings joy, hope and beauty to even the most ordinary moments.
Meister Eckhart, the 14th-century theologian, wrote that ‘we are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born’. In other words, our call is to look beyond the ordinary and to search for God in our midst, however he comes to us. Take some space and time to reflect on the past 24 hours. First, think of where God’s light has shone in a clear and obvious way – perhaps through the beauty of nature or the kindness of family and friends. Now take time to think of the in-between times – where has his light shone in your more ordinary, mundane, everyday moments?
Taken from ‘Opening our Lives’ by Trystan Owain Hughes p.26 – 28.
Week One: Not looking, but seeing
Our scripture reading today: Colossians 1: 15 – 20.
When I was growing up, my taid (grandfather) used to sit with his little cap on, spitting occasionally into the roaring fire, telling us stories about his childhood. One of the stories was about the great Welsh revival. It was 1904 and the Holy Spirit was sweeping through Wales like a forest fire. The great revivalist, Evan Roberts, would visit the chapels of Anglesey and preach to the packed buildings for hours. Things are certainly different today. The churches and chapels are still standing on Anglesey, but many are now garages, community centres and supermarkets. The congregations at the buildings that continue to be places of worship are often dwindling and ageing.
It is too easy for Christians to feel downhearted at the state of the church today and, indeed, at the state of the nation or the world. In his parables about the kingdom, though, Jesus challenges us to look beyond what is at the surface. It may look insignificant (a mustard seed, some yeast, a net or a field), but it is something much more precious. As Henry David Thoreau noted: ‘The question is not what you look at, but what you see’. Jesus challenges us to open our eyes to the kingdom of God in our everyday lives and to perceive God in our daily existence. God is inextricably woven into our lives and the challenge of our faith is to recognise him each day.
In the BBC comedy Blackadder Goes Forth, set during World War I, General Melchett unfurls a map of the battlefield, leans over it and bellows, ‘Oh man, it’s a barren and featureless desert out there, isn’t it?’ His assistant, Captain Darling, looks at the blank paper and replies, ‘I think you want the other side, sir’. If we open our eyes, we can learn to recognise the other side of this world, woven into our lives – in the beauty of nature, in the friendships we foster and in the kindness we witness.
The Welsh poet R.S. Thomas reminded us that burning bush moments of finding God in the tapestry of our lives are like the ‘pearl of great price’ of Jesus parable – we should be selling everything to experience them. What does this mean practically in your own life? Have a think about when God’s joy and wonder has broken through in your life, perhaps at surprising moments. Finally, commit yourself to looking beyond the surface and to recognising God in the ordinary everyday.
Taken from ‘Opening our Lives’ by Trystan Owain Hughes p.23 – 25.