Anne Currie
27th July 2014
Where’s God?

Do you remember the Where’s Wally books? Page after page of pictures chock full of hundreds of people and you had to find Wally… a youth distinctly dressed in red and white striped jumper and hat, but so cleverly drawn that you had to look really, really hard to find him.

I don’t know about you, but finding God in these past couple of weeks feels a bit like looking at one of those pictures. The bad news just seems to keep on crowding in…

Palestinians and Israelis throwing bombs and rockets at each other relentlessly…

Aeroplane crashes in the Ukraine and Mali…

Refugees on the move in so many places… Gaza, Sudan, Iraq, fleeing terror, bombing, and oppression.

The forced eviction in Mosul of the Christians who live there… convert, leave or die. And not just Christians but Shia Muslims too, are being forced to go. Usually they have to leave with just the clothes they stand up in. Everything taken from them, even wedding rings.

Syria – torn apart by factional fighting, and the problems in the Ukraine just seem to deepen…

Not to mention Sudan, Afghanistan…

And an epidemic of Ebola in West Africa that is proving difficult to confine.

All this happening under our noses, whilst we watch those who seek to keep the peace or bring humanitarian aid facing danger every day. Online, on TV and on the radio a relentless parade of suffering.

It makes you want to say… Just where on earth have you got to God? What’s happening, have you forsaken us? Come on God it’s holiday time… we don’t need all this bad stuff happening. Where are you! Not so much where’s Wally, but where’s God!

For a preacher, it’s hard to know where to start, in a week such as this. How can we possibly begin to talk about the Good news of the gospel when death and destruction seem to be around every corner, when everything seems to be in such a mess?

What, if anything, is there in our scripture readings today that can give us one small scrap of hope or comfort when the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth seems to be the only thing that can be heard coming from so many places in the world.

Paul words strike a chord in our trouble strewn world. A cry to God, “ For your sake we are being killed all day long, we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered”. These words from Psalm 44 are a cry of anguish from a suffering people. And it continues…

”23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
24 Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”

Is God hiding his face from us? Are we being punished for sinful behaviour? Why do these bad things happen?

My answer to those questions is that the God I know is loving and merciful, not some being who sits on high and brings down death and destruction at the flick of his finger. Human beings are more than capable of bringing about atrocities on their own account without any divine aid. Natural disasters are the earth doing what it does; accidents do happen and we may never know the cause.

Paul’s passage from his letter to the Romans is, for me, one of the most powerful he has written… it’s full of strong ringing affirmations. Paul assures us of the hope that comes from God’s love for us, a love so big so strong that nothing can divide us. These words speak to our hunger and need and our faith. And they speak to our pain and our fear. It’s one of those passages, especially the last few verses that can really make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end!

And Paul counters the verses from Psalm 44 by this powerful reassurance of God’s unending and unalienable love through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus’ parables are his way of telling us about the kingdom of heaven…. and looking at the news we might well say “How can the kingdom possibly be present as long as the world remains the way it does? It’s very obvious that it hasn’t arrived yet!”

Or has it?

Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom is unexpected, unseen and possibly subversive… God at work, even though human eyes may fail to perceive what is happening.

For the kingdom of heaven disrupts, it afflicts the comfortable, rattles cages, turns over tables. The kingdom of heaven is not about business as usual…

It is at hand, found in ordinary and extraordinary places… always present even if we are unaware, until it pops up and bops us on the nose!

And in case you were thinking that the kingdom of heaven should be something already huge and magnificent… then think again.

Tiny things like mustard seeds and yeast spores… we all know how they work. Small seeds become huge trees, a small amount of yeast will work through and rise up a large amount of flour.

So the surprise in the parables is not what the yeast and the seed does, but that the kingdom of god could work in that way…. inconspicuously growing until we have to take notice.

God will use anyone and anything that comes to hand in the growing of his kingdom. Large and important are not necessarily qualifications for God’s calling… Just look at some of the people God has used throughout history. A very elderly man (Abraham), someone with a speech problem (Moses who stuttered), A coward (Jonah), A widow (Naomi), people who fall asleep during their prayers (the disciples), a betrayer (Peter), and someone who persecuted, imprisoned, and stood by whilst followers of Jesus were killed… Paul himself! Ordinary people become extraordinary by God’s grace… just like the bread and wine on our communion table.

Like the Wally figure, God blends in amongst us, until it is time to become visible.

So let’s ask the question again…

Where’s God? Sitting down there in the rubble of a house… beside the father who cradles his wounded child. As the child bleeds, so does our God from his hands and his feet.

Where’s God? Fleeing alongside the refugees, looking back over their shoulders and up to the skies, looking for planes or truck that follow. As they run, so did our God, as a baby fleeing from Nazareth to Egypt from the wrath of Herod.

Where’s God? He still resides in Mosul… he lies among the ruins of the holy shrines, blown apart by invading troops. He is present in the pieces of stone that are soaked in prayer for two millennia… present in the flakes of dust and plaster that resemble pieces of our communion wafers. God broken for all of us.

Where’s God? Present in the hearts of all who give shelter to a refugee, all who bind up a wound, sit round a table time after time after time, attempting to bring two opposing sides together, moving between them, looking for the pearl, the treasure the one thing that will enable the yeast to grow and spread, a ceasefire , a peace a way to live together.

Where’s God? Present in the person of Jesus as he Listens to our prayers and worship. Present in the person of the Spirit as Rev Sharon invokes the blessing upon the Bread and Wine. Present in our lives now and always.

“For neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8.26-end
Matthew 13.21-33, 44-52