Thursday, 22 September 2016

Seeing God everywhere?

This coming Sunday we’ll be celebrating Harvest Festival.  Even though I’m a life-long suburban ‘townie’ I love singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’.  To be truthful I cannot tell the difference between a field of wheat and barley – but I am aware that the food the Tesco van delivers to the Manse door every week doesn’t start its life pre-packaged!

In the liturgy of the Church Harvest Festival services are relative newcomers as they have only been around since 1843 – being the Church’s offering as an alternative, or at least an addition, to the more rowdy ‘Harvest Home’ held in village barns.

It is often said that many find it ‘easier’ to see God in nature than in a church.

Well, I suspect it’s sometimes difficult, or at least confusing, to see God at times in either.  For nature can be fiercely and frighteningly destructive (‘red in tooth and claw’ as the saying goes) and church can often present God using words and images which are steeped in an ecclesiastical culture that no longer resonates with a pre-dominantly secular society.

For me the nature vs church debate is pretty pointless because I suspect the ‘notion’ of God cannot be ‘contained’ or ‘explained’ exclusively in either.

God, I like to believe, is everywhere; an unlimited presence waiting and wanting to be explored and cherished.

So I’m glad that on Sunday some of us will sense the presence of God as we sing ‘All things bright and beautiful’. Others, as they sing that, will be transported to their gardens or a holiday memory and be grateful for that sense of the divine in nature. Whilst some will delight in our focus during the service on ‘Street Kids Direct’ and our church’s progress in raising £5,000 this year for the children sleeping rough in Guatemala, because for them God’s love is seen most clearly in acts of compassion and kindness.

Thomas Merton, an American monk, put it this way in August 1968:

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time.  This is not just a fable or a nice story, it is true.  And this is something we are not able to see. But if we abandon ourselves to Him and forget ourselves we see it maybe frequently – in people and in things and in nature and in events and so forth.  So that it becomes very obvious that he is everywhere, He is in everything, and we cannot be without Him.

With best wishes,

Ian

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