Thinking Anew – Waiting patiently for the light
‘Help us O God when the world seems empty of your presence” – the opening words of a prayer that deals with those times when faith is challenged and God’s existence is in doubt.
Bishop John Taylor knew the feeling when he wrote, “There are dark times when I can believe in God only because that man did and I’d rather be deluded in his company than right in any other company.”
That man, of course, was Jesus Christ who made God present and real in everything he said and did.
In tomorrow’s gospel, we read about the Transfiguration, that mountain-top experience Jesus shared with three disciples, Peter, James and John. The experience is represented in dramatic language: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
John Pritchard, in God Lost and Found, reminds us of the immortal God who according to a hymn is “hid from our eyes”. He writes: “It is well said that no-one can see God and live. This isn’t because anyone is going to punish us for prying. You’re expected to poke and prod and lift the covers. But the fact is that none of us can handle a face-on session with the Source of all that is.”
He describes his own faith journey, explaining that he, having observed all the rituals of religion, felt there was something still missing. “It was when I was shown the supreme significance of this life [Jesus] that I could metaphorically shout ‘Eureka’ and start to fly in my Christian faith. This Jesus is the scandal at the heart of the faith. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ is the crucial question (Matthew, 16.15) The answer I gave to that question changed my life completely.”
The answer given in the text: “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
If we dig beneath the surface of church life, we may well discover that some who attend church regularly feel they have lost touch with God in any meaningful way.
Indeed we may find that some no longer believe in God at all and are simply keeping up the practice of a lifetime out of loyalty to an institution or even a building.
The 19th-century priest FD Maurice observed: “We have dosed our people with religion when what they seek is the Living God.”
For some of an older generation there is the added disappointment of seeing children and grandchildren live lives where God is given little or no place.
“Bear” Grylls is widely known through television for his travel and survival adventures. He also heads the scouting movement in britain as chief scout.
What is perhaps less known is that he is Irish, born in Donaghadee, and a man of faith with Jesus Christ at the centre: “I really, desperately have learnt in my life that I need my faith, and I’m just not strong enough on my own. I try to start every day by kneeling down and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, I ain’t got it all right, and I’m nervous about today. I will give it my all, but will you help me?’ It’s never more complicated than that . . . my faith is a quiet, strong backbone in my life, and the glue to our family.”
The prayer in full mentioned at the beginning: Help us O God at those times when the world seems empty of your presence and no word comes to reassure our hearts. That in the darkness we may wait patiently for the light, and in the silence listen for your voice, and in all things trust your promises in Jesus Christ our Lord. –