Sermon for Advent 1 (30 November 2008)
Today was a family service, with Sunday School and Disciple presentations. And a reflection by Sarah on ‘Where is God?’ So, a short sermon!
Where is God?
I assume that just about everyone has asked that question. Where is God, when bad things happen? Where is God, when good people suffer and prayer seems useless? Where is God? Where is God when the answers to our questions appear to be in new and better technology?
Do our readings give us any help?
Isaiah speaks about God as a potter (64.8):
O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
We’re like clay. The clay doesn’t know what it’s going to become. It doesn’t realise that it’s got to be worked, and moulded. It might not look forward to being moulded. The clay doesn’t know that one day, to be really useful and really beautiful, it’s got to go into the fire and be burned. But that has to happen.
A piece of half-formed clay doesn’t necessarily look great. It may have wome rough edges; some bits may be in proportion, others way out of proportion. It needs some reshaping. A bit like us, really. We are in the process of being formed as the vessels God wants us to be.
Where is God when we are being moulded, and sometimes even burned?
Where is God when we ask Where is God? God is forming us as a potter forms clay.
In Mark 13, Jesus speaks to his startled followers about things to come. Things they were to wait for. He speaks of a time (13.24-25) when
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
It’s often when the sun is darkened, when the stars are collapsing from the sky, that we wonder Where is God?
This reminds me of that great story of the two disciples walking to Emmaus. They were asking something like Where is God? And to their astonishment, once they realise, Jesus walks beside them.
Or the Antarctic expedition in 1916 when Sir Ernest Shackleton and two others were trudging across South Georgia, wondering if they would live or die. When they reached safety, they checked with one another. Each one had thought there was a fourth man walking with them.
Where is God when we ask Where is God? Walking right beside us.
God is there. God is there at each point of our lives, the good bits—like when your daughter comes home after fifteen months away—and the bad bits too.
Just like the clay needs to be moulded and glazed in the oven, we can let ourselves be formed into the people God wants us to be. When it feels like the sun has forgotten to shine, we can discover God-with-us.
God is there. Amen.