We have embarked on a series of services on Sunday mornings looking at ‘Being with’.
Try this thought – God’s chosen goal from creation onwards has been to be with us. From walking in the Garden of Eden – to being present in the Holy Spirit, from being in the temple to being among us in Jesus Christ. God has always willed to be with us, there is no place God would rather be and no better place for us.
There are many tasks before us and many things to be done. These are times when we work together to achieve something or work for others to make a difference. These are vital and essential actions – whether in campaigning for social justice or going out in evangelism. But they are actions on the way to a greater goal that people will dwell in relationship with God enjoying time, openness, hope, love and justice.
This perspective puts overcoming isolation, breaking down barriers and sharing reconciliation at the heart of the gospel. We can become so preoccupied about our tasks and actions for people and we can forget what they are about in the first place.
Here are a couple of subtle ways in which seeing things in this way deepens some of our core messages as Christians:
“God had to come personally to live and die for us.” We explain that only God was good enough to make this sacrifice, but thinking is terms of ‘being with’ we can also say that God had to come and do this because being with God is life as it was always meant to be. If God isn’t fully present in bringing salvation, then it cannot be life as it should be. It is simple as that – it has to be God!
In the midst of the toughest pastoral situations, we find ourselves searching for a credible prayer: “May God be with you” we murmur, wondering whether this is enough. We are conflicted that we couldn’t pray that God will heal and step in and change everything. But thinking in terms of ‘being with’ we realise that God being with us, is not a second-best option when facing a lack of healing – it is the best it is the way of living and experiencing life as God intended. This is not to negate the possibility, power and importance of healing and watershed changes but to realise that they are steps on the way to God being with us.
I guess to paraphrase Jesus – believe in me because I am with you and you know me and if you have to trust me because of the miracles and things I do. Have a read of John 10 and see that the debate Jesus was having there was to show that belief is first and foremost about knowing Jesus and trusting – as sheep know a shepherd.
So, in this current series on Sundays we are taking a look at what this means for us as Christians, for our connections with other people and for wider society. To consider that in all our endeavours it is the will of God to be with us, among Christians, in the midst of society and through all creation.
Graham Brownlee, March 2019