“Where is God?”, the young child asks his parent. “Is he in heaven?” “Well, yes; but not only in heaven. He’s all around us too.” “Really!” says the child. “Is he in this room?” “Well, yes.”
“Is he right here in front of us?” “Well you could say that.” “Is he in this glass?” “Uh, yes.” “Got him then!” says the child, slamming his hand on top of the glass.
That story illustrates a basic religious belief that God is indeed everywhere, that he is present in all places and at all times. So what, then, do we mean when we say that God was specially present in Jesus, that in the little baby God came among us? The Bible says that another name for Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us and that Jesus was God’s only Son, God himself actually in our world. Well I solve this puzzle in this way. God is indeed everywhere. He is all around us like the air. But just like air we take him for granted. So we need to be reminded of him. And so we need to be aware of his presence. This is precisely what the life of Jesus is all about. It is a reminder to us that God is always with us. By being present in Jesus God demonstrates and teaches us something that has been true all along, that he is always there for us, that he will never leave us or desert us.
The power of the Christmas story – indeed the entire story of Jesus – is that this presence is not shown in strength but in weakness. People of faith have been able to see God, to discern divinity, in the weakness, innocence and vulnerability of a baby. We take it for granted, but it is really quite remarkable that the basic nativity scene is that of grown men and women worshipping a baby. A baby! What’s godlike about a baby? Not a lot, you’d think. Being a god is surely all about being powerful. But here’s this baby being worshipped. What are we to make of it? What I make of it is that the main thing about God isn’t power and fantastic knowledge and things like that. The main thing about him is that he is loving through and through. The heart of his existence is love and everything he does is filled with love.
Love is sometimes weak, sometimes strong and so too is Jesus. In the manger and on the cross he is weak. But that’s the God I need; that’s the kind of God we all need. Not an all-powerful tyrant, but a God who can be like us, can be alongside us in everything we go through in life. Jesus shows us, reminds us, that that is just the kind of God we have. But Jesus isn’t here now in the flesh. In first century Palestine people could meet up with him, could bump into him as he came round the corner. You can’t do that today.
So how can we experience his presence now? By sharing in worship, in Holy Communion, by reading his word and through prayer. At this time of year especially, with all the extra services there are so many more ways that we can be reminded of the baby born amongst us….why not see what is happening in your local area, you would be most welcome.
Why not go and search for the one whose life was and is a constant reminder of the God who is always with us.
Rev Michelle Ireland
November is a time of remembrance. We remember loved ones who have departed this life, as well as those who have given their lives in the service of their country. As we watch the news on our televisions or read our newspapers, we are constantly made aware of the conflicts that are going on in the world today, so this is a time when it is important to show solidarity.
On Remembrance Sunday the poppy offers a symbol that speaks volumes. Thousands of poppies grew in the soil churned up by fighting on the battlefields of the First World War, and this humble flower has become a symbol of remembrance. We think of the sacrifices made by our armed forces, and the red petal of the poppy reminds us of bloodshed, of lives lost, of human greed, and of countless lives marked forever by pain and fear.
In St John’s Gospel Jesus says “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” so it is right that we should honour these gallant people who put their lives on the line for us.
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”
The green leaf of the poppy reminds us of the possibility of new life, a new start. For Christians this new start comes through Jesus, the one who laid down his life not only for his friends but for all people in all places at all times (and so that means me and you!)
One of the many beautiful descriptive names given to Jesus is ‘Prince of Peace’. Many people wear a white poppy at this time, their desire and prayer be that peace should come upon the earth.
Red, green and white, they all have their part to play. In remembering the past let us do all we can in the present to bring an end to fighting and disunity, so that all people may know God’s peace and loving provision day by day.
Yours in Jesus
Rev Michelle Ireland
Hello to everyone who is reading this! Thank you for taking the time to do so.
Over the last few weeks, many churches and schools have celebrated Harvest Thanskgiving, doing what it says on the tin – giving thanks for all God’s goodness in the creation around us and reminding ourselves of the task that we have to care for that creation as good stewards. We can read the account of God creating the world in the first book of the Bible – Genesis. In chapter 1, we have a very ordered account where God created the world in 6 days and then on the 7th had a rest! That’s where we get our Sabbath day from, a day of rest and refreshment. In chapter 2 we have another version of the account, this time it has the feel of people sitting round a fire and telling the story to each other. Each sits comfortably with the other.
What I am intrigued and challenged by is the fact that mankind is the last thing to be brought into being, the pinnacle of creation, not just made from the dust of the earth by God’s own hand but also given life by his own breath. I think that’s wonderful, but even more wonderful, it says in the Bible the following Then God said, ‘Let Us make human beings in Our image and likeness’. - Genesis 1:26
In all of creation, only human beings are made “in God’s image.”
I have always wondered what it meant …. But I read this the other day, what do you think about the following…
- we are spiritual beings - our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies;
- we are intellectual - we can think, reason, and solve problems;
- we are relational - we can give and receive real love;
- and we have a moral consciousness - we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.
The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; but the image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So God sent Jesus on a mission to restore the full image that we have lost. What does the full “image and likeness” of God look like? It looks like Jesus Christ! The Bible says Jesus is “the exact likeness of God,” “the visible image of the invisible God,” and “the exact representation of his being” (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).
God wants His earthly children to bear His image and likeness, too. The Bible says, ‘You were... created to be like God, truly righteous and holy.’ — Ephesians 4:24 God doesn’t want you to become a god; He wants you to become godly - taking on His values, attitudes, and character. The Bible says,
‘Take on an entirely new way of life - a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you’. - Ephesians 4:22-24
God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so He certainly doesn’t want to destroy it. Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.
God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12), the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), Paul’s great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13), and Peter’s list of the characteristics of an effective and productive life (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You’ll wonder, Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?
One answer is that maybe sometimes life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven! Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the “abundant life” (John 10:10) to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on earth.
This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment. But God is not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, either you will become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality.
Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa.
Why would God provide heaven on earth when He’s planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.
Do you think that being made in God’s image is something like that?
Rev Michelle Ireland
I receive a variety of daily readings and thoughts via the computer each day. The following is an extract which I really wanted to share with you ( if you would like to subscribe to the readings which are free then go to Premier Radio, and find BE STILL AND KNOW.)
Rev Michelle Ireland
Genesis 37:5 NLT
"One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever."
Joseph, the favoured son of Jacob, dressed in a fine coat, dreams what appears on the surface an impossible dream. His dream stirs up resentment and bitter opposition from his own brothers. They see his dream as nothing more than vain boasting and take offence at the thought that they must bow in acknowledgement of their ‘little brother’.
A dream like that is only ever an anticipatory intuition of some future reality. To invest oneself in such a dream takes courage and conviction. There can be little evidence of the success of the dreamer at the start of their pursuit of the dream. Yet, many of us carry dreams within our hearts. Dreams no doubt seeded by God; dreams for which we are the bearers and the means of their realisation. In a cynical age of criticism and rationality, it is increasingly difficult to live the dream.
However, no one can realise the dream save the dreamer, and the path to its realisation can, in fact, be fraught with difficulty. Joseph was to be tested at every stage of his dream, and throughout he had to discover the nature of both God’s provision and God’s timing. A dream cannot be birthed ahead of its time, yet if neglected can die with us, never having been considered worthy of investment. Much like the talent buried in the ground, it never matures and therefore offers no return to its principle shareholder, God.
God invites you to dream and to accept responsibility for that dream and to seed it through declaring it and prayerfully inviting God to fertilise it with his spirit. Where such a dream will carry you cannot be known at the outset. Yet to pursue it with a humble faithfulness is perhaps the greatest step of faith you may ever initiate.
With September marking the beginning of a New Methodist Year and also a time to celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the opportunities, privileges and necessities of sowing seeds and dreaming dreams. Let’s go for it, let’s reach further than we have ever done before, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. AMEN