Written by Pastor Ed
June 19, 2016
Isaiah 65: 1-9
Psalm 42 & 43
All of us long for connections outside of ourselves. It’s innate in us, I believe. When we are infants, like Henry and Aurelia, we don’t really differentiate between ourselves and those big people who provide food, warmth, and those sounds that we come to like. And we know that if infants are deprived of those things, they fail to mature.
Of course, we also know that around the age of two or so, toddlers discover that they are separate persons and they can say no to the adults around them, which they often do with some frequency. Yet, there is still that sense, hopefully, of belonging and connection. After all, you can’t say no to someone who isn’t there. Even teenagers need someone to rebel against, if they are going to rebel.
And at some point in our development, we begin to long for a connection with someone, or something much larger than ourselves. It is that longing that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalms 42 and 43. “As the deer longs for water, so my soul longs for thee,” the Psalmist cries. While we don’t know the circumstances of the writer at this time, it is clear that this is a time of discouragement or trouble. And certainly those are times when we may particularly feel that sense of seeking after comfort or calm beyond ourselves.
One of the images of God in the Bible is that of a heavenly parent. While many of those images are of God as Father, there are certainly also images of God as mother, the mother hen who gathers her chicks as only one example. Of course, that image is only helpful if we have had a good experience or at least seen good examples of parenting in our own lives. People who have been abandoned by parents, or whose parent was abusive find it hard to relate to an image of God as parent, understandably so.
But for those who have had a relatively good experience of parenting, the image of God as parent can be a comforting one. A parent is often someone we seek out in times of difficulty. A parent is someone who nurtures and encourages, providing us with hope. And we all long for, and need someone or something to provide that. And so we too cry out at times for that connection.
Unfortunately, all too often we look not to God, but to other things to try and fill that need in our lives. All too often, I fear, God has to speak the lament voiced in Isaiah 65, the other passage we read this morning, of the parent who sits waiting for that call from a child, longing to be of comfort, help and assistance, but the call never comes.
I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that did not call on my name. Is. 65:1
Like the children of Israel, we try to fill that need with other things. For some it is wealth and power, for some it may be activity and fun, for some it may be turning to drugs or other substances that bring temporary relief. And yes, for some it may be religion, following a set of rules and ideologies that they think will make things right. But none of those things, or whatever else people may try, will meet that need for the connection with a power beyond themselves, namely the God shown to us in Jesus Christ.
Again and again the Psalmist comes back to his refrain, “Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Or as St. Augustine said in his Confessions, “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”
God does not force us to seek after God. But time and again God puts forth an invitation. As Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And God does not always come to us in loud obvious ways. The alternate Old Testament text for today is the story of Elijah fleeing for his life and meeting God on Mt. Horeb, where Elijah did not find God in the thunder or the storm, but rather God came in the sound of sheer silence.
Sometimes in those times and places when we least expect it, we hear that call of God on our lives. The invitation, like that of a parent, always ready to answer if we will only seek. That is also a model for us, both as parents and as a church, to be ready to reach out to and welcome all who seek to connect to us and to God. It is particularly important that we do that as a church for those who may not have good examples of parents, or who have been abused by parents or society. For if we as Christians do not show the love of God, for everyone, then how can we expect them to seek a God whom we purport to represent?
Our need for God is not a one and done thing. It’s not like can claim that ok, we’ve found God and now we can get on with the rest of our lives. Nor is it only in those times of distress that we need God. If the Psalmist had not already had a relationship with God, I don’t think he would have been able to pen his words. Our spiritual lives are something that need to be nurtured throughout our lives, both in those times of calm as well as in the storms of life.
For it is only as we nurture that relationship that we can pass it on to our children and to others around us, and it is only as we nurture that relationship that we will have true hope for the future. May we seek God, only to find God seeking us.