From Olympics to Elections, the public mind has had its focus on some big picture issues for an extended period. It is easy to be lulled into a sense of disengagement by such events – watching athletes perform in ways of which we can only dream, and hearing political discourse about issues which often appear only remotely to affect us. Whether we speak of running marathons, or of truth and trust in politics, such issues seem “out of reach” and only remotely within our sphere of influence.
The same is often true of religious and spiritual matters. Many discussions and suggestions are framed in terms outside of our context. For example, when discussions about the nature of God and free will emerge, they are often contextualised in a theoretical framework. On the other hand, unfolding human tragedies such as those in the Darfur region of Sudan, Beslan in Russia, bombs in Jakarta, memories of September 11 and the like seem to create a further gap between our understanding and experience of God in the world. The experience of knowing and experiencing God seems as possible as running a marathon in just over two hours: OK for some, but for most not possible.
When Jesus introduced his disciples to a pattern of prayer, he began with the words “Our father…” a radical shift in address which brought God into the realm of our understanding and experience. It is characteristic of Jesus that he explained the work of God employing the ordinary elements of life: a sower going out to sow, a widow searching for a lost coin… and so on. It was a recurring theme of Jesus’ life, also echoed in Paul’s teaching: “God is not far from any one of us.”
There are many experiences of life which are beyond the vast majority of us, but Jesus would remind us that an experience of God is available to us all in the ordinary moments of life. After all didn’t Jesus’ first appear in an ordinary experience of life – one that we all share? Aren’t the elements of the memorial celebration ones which we know within our daily experience? The search for God begins where we are, and might surprisingly lead us at times into the thoughts and actions of our own hearts, and of those we meet day by day.
September 12, 2004