God Sightings. The children and leaders acted as detectives this past week – looking for and reporting on God’s work in their lives. Because God is present in our lives.
Here are some examples: In the singing… in the children… in the water being splashed…
Every day at our openings we shared God Sightings. One little girl said “I saw God in my snack!” Everyone laughed. But that little girl was in good company – Martin Luther declared that God was unbound by the dimensions that bind us - space and time -- and he declared that he could see God’s presence in his cabbage soup.
God IS truly present in the world… in our world – as messed up as it is. But we don’t always notice. I’d like you to think about God’s presence in YOUR life. Where have you seen God at work? You can write it down on the God Sighting Card and add to our board.
In the book of Romans, and especially in this chapter, Paul writes about the Holy Spirit as not only active in our world but as an advocate, as interceding on our behalf – without our even knowing it. Paul writes, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
There are times in which we don’t know how to pray. Sometimes our world and our lives are so mixed up that we don’t know where to begin. One pastor says those are the times in which she just says, “Help God!” But, Paul tells us not to worry about saying the right words. The Holy Spirit – God’s own spirit – is praying for you.
But that’s not all. The Holy Spirit is also working alongside us to lead and guide us, giving us the spirit and the tools we need.
On Tuesday, the second day of VBS, a little girl came up to me and said, “Pastor Pam… there are some kids being mean.” I have to admit that I thought it was a tweedle beetle battle between her and some other kids. It was music time and so I asked her focus on the music – and ignore those kids.
“But Pastor Pam,” she said a bit more urgently, “they are being mean to him… and she looked at Micah… a little boy who has developmental delays.” Tears started to run down her face. And I saw God at work in her. God gave her a tender heart, full of compassion. And she could not stand to see Micah – a little boy full of the love of God – being ridiculed.
Micah was a little disruptive because he didn’t have many words – and the ones that he had, he said loudly. But Micah had gotten the message. He could act out in sign language, God (point up) and then loves (hands over heart) and then shout out really loudly: “ME!”.
Micah could teach us all about the power of God’s love. He may not be able to speak many words – but he knows God’s love is for him.
In less easy to understand words, Paul assures his first readers – and us – that it is God’s plan to reconcile the whole world. This is what he means when he talks about “predestination.” It is God’s goal and plan to reconcile the whole world to God’s love – so that Jesus can have a big family. But we aren’t there yet.
This is why, week after week we confess that on our own, we fall short. We are deeply in need of God’s forgiveness – and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction and prayers.
We are also in need of the Holy Spirit’s prayers because as we look for God- sightings, God at work in our world, we don’t know what to think or how to understand situations that don’t always seem fair or right. For example, was God involved when a person was miraculously saved from the burning building in London? Yes! But then… where was God when other people were not saved? Was God with the child in Africa who was born with HIV but has been living without the disease for 11 years? Yes. But, we wonder, where was God with all of the other people who have not been healed.
Like Paul, we believe that God was present in all of those situations. God was present with the one who was saved from a burning building and God held onto the one who died even as he took his last breath. God is with the child who is cured as well as with those who suffer from disease. God is with us through joy and sorrow.
Paul knows that the people of God have – and will continue -- to experience hardship. He quotes the lament in the book of Psalms: "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." God’s people endured suffering because of their faith in Biblical times, in the Holocaust, and in our time too – remember the gunman a little over a year ago who killed people in a church Bible study. God is with us through these catastrophic sufferings and in our ordinary daily sufferings – and joys too.
So what is our response? The poet Christian Wiman writes that our task is "not to ask for release or rescue, but that one's will be conformed to the will of God." Paul says that we can either be “Conformed to the image of Jesus "conformed to the image of his son" (Romans 8:29) or "conformed to the image of the world" (Romans 12:2).
Trusting that we belong to God – and not the world – that nothing can separate us from God's providential care, and conforming ourselves to God's will rather than to the ways of the world, "the greatest honor we can give almighty God," says Juliana of Norwich, "is to live gladly because of the knowledge of love."
Live gladly. Watch for the Holy Spirit at work in our world – and in your life. And remember that you have been marked by the cross of Christ – and that Nothing can separate you from God’s love.
Life is never going to be “easy” or “normal” or “fair” for Micah – or for those who care for him. But Micah knows and proclaims that there is “NOTHING” – not mean kids or thoughtless adults or health care policies or anything else that can separate him from the love of God.
Like Micah, you too are a child of God. And like Micah you too can know and proclaim that despite all of the challenges of this world and of our lives, there is Nothing that can separate you from the love of God.
And so, trusting that we belong to God, we can rejoice – and look for the ways that God is active in our world.