Bible Reading Isaiah 6:1-8
When I left my appointment in Westminster Central Hall, one of the gifts I was given was the plaque above. It sits in my hallway and welcomes people as they come in. It reminds me a little of how the Israelites were told to put on their doorposts the laws of God. (Deut 6:9). The plaque is not a law I know, but it is a visible reminder that whether or not I feel the presence of God, God is with me always.
When I used to visit folk as part of my work as a deacon, I would not go to take God with me, but would go to meet God there, if I was visiting somewhere for the first time I would knock three times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, knowing that whatever I was going to find, God was already in that place, with that person and knew what was going on.
“Bidden or not bidden God is present” – when I looked this saying up, quite a few people are attributed as saying it, but if we believe that God is in all creation that God’s fingerprint is on all that God has made , that the very breath we breathe comes from God, then this saying is as much ours as anyone’s! It is the spiritual air we breathe, we do it so unconsciously that we almost take it for granted. But there are times when we are conscious of our breathing and the same is true of our relationship with God, there will be times when we are very conscious of being in God’s presence.
Perhaps for me the Isaiah 6:1-8 reading recalls such a moment, when the presence of God is tangible and glorious. I find it is so hard to put into words when you have that moment when you realise you are in God’s presence, words do not seem to be adequate to record the sense of glory or deep peace. Author Philip Chircop cites a passage (author unknown) and has given me permission to offer it to you:-
Bidden or unbidden, God is present as heartbeat, as breath, as sunrise and sunset, as sustaining and suffering love, as dear friend rejected or embraced, God is present.
Bidden or unbidden, God is present as a people created from the dust who wrestle with reality and tell stories of their struggles. God is present.
Bidden or unbidden, God is present as slaves thrown out of Egypt and nearly drowned in the Sea called Red, as wanderers in the wilderness for forty years in search of the promise land, God is present.
Bidden or unbidden, God is present as prophet, lawgiver, and guide, as smoke and fire, God is present.
Bidden or unbidden, God is present as a new born baby in a distant land, as the one around whom angels and peasant shepherds and the beasts of the stable flock and hover in adoration, God is present.
During the lockdown, this sense of God’s presence for some was very real, for others they wondered where he was. My appointment in East Yorkshire , known as God’s own country, was dominated at the end by the pandemic and what we could and couldn’t do. It made us look at how we could share our faith in new ways, including letters (by snail mail) and the internet. Early on in the pandemic when we were not allowed out except to work, I received an email with the following message.
God was seen walking around the streets of Withernsea, and when he was challenged as to what he was doing out and about he replied. “I’m working from home.”
That joke sent to me in jest, actually became the basis of all I did in the pandemic whilst I was there (until I retired last September), It was a reminder we were not alone and God was with us in all we were doing and going through.
We serve and love a God who loves us to the uttermost but waits for us to turn to him. Almost 50 years ago, before safeguarding! I was a student and we took children from the local area to Whipsnade Zoo, I was in charge of a toddler and two girls aged about 8. We got to zoo and the toddler saw the sandpit, and he was straight there, no moving him, the girls went off to explore and kept coming back to me to check in, I stayed and watched the toddler, he was oblivious to me, after about an hour he suddenly realised he was hungry, alone and tired and began to cry. Other parents tried to placate him and eventually he saw me through his tears, he recognized me as the one who had brought him there and could take him home. I still remember his tears and runny nose on my face and how tightly those grubby hands held round my neck, he didn’t let go for the rest of the day! Whilst he had been playing, he was so unaware I was there, but I never left him. This for me is my picture of God, who waits for us to see that he is there, for bidden or not bidden, God is with us. Amen
Ever present God, whose fingerprint is on the whole of creation and who knows us better than we know ourselves, may we be aware of your enfolding love, may we share that love with others and may we be lights to show that you are with us and that in you we are made whole. Amen
God of Creation
May we know of your presence
Where ever we are
Deacon Denise Creed