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Which God are you looking for?

Four times a year the church has traditionally set aside 3 days Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in a particular week for fasting abstinence and prayer. These days are called ember days and were originally commemorated to bless the seasons – winter, spring, autumn Summer, thanking God for the gifts of nature, reminding us to use these gifts in moderation, and to assist the needy. Soon they became days to reflect on the big feast days of Christmas Easter and Pentecost. Ordination of the clergy was done at this time and thus we use the collects for ministry – one for each ember day.

On this autumn ember day in the season of Advent one week before we celebrate the feast of Christmas, Luke 7:19-23 causes us to reflect on Jesus as the one who will make a difference. This story is also told by Matthew. John asks the question are you the one or do we look for another.

Do you see God active in our lives? Who is God to you? Who are you looking for? Who really is God to you? Is Jesus enough or do you look for another? Jesus came to show us how to live as God intended, with compassion, in balance with each other and nature. But each of us has our own version of God and so I would like us to reflect on God becoming human and what kind of human being are we expecting to come at Christmas. A mean and vengeful one, one that says an eye for an eye and to cut off your hand if it offends you, OR a human being who brings with him a new and different way of life. A life of love, no bitterness, despite our insufficiencies.

Verse 23 says “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.” How you define God determines how you see God working in life. Is your image of God that of a God who improves our life as we know God better? Just as the Gospel says, so the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

The whole point of Jesus coming is to show us a better way to live. If we look at the old testament, and God as described in the psalms where the psalmist asks God to punish his enemies, we see a God who tells Joshua to kill off a whole city; the dysfunctional families of a Jacob and Esau, Cain and Abel, David’s children being jealous of each other; a God who says keep these 630 something laws and you will go to heaven. And like us looking on today, waiting for somebody to come and change our political system, change our social system. We try to always see life in discrete silos, black and white, we and them, good and bad, ours and theirs. If you are not with us, you are against us. There is a lot of disharmony, emotional and physical pain, people hurting and lashing out on others. So, God says you have totally misunderstood. There must be another way for them to understand. God then sends Jesus who comes and says this is what God meant when God said to Moses love God and neighbour as self. It is a love that includes everybody. One where persons feel wanted and safe, not criticized and rejected. One where we are very aware of our faults and we try to do better, because we understand that what we do affects others. That good relations give peace of mind. When we make others unhappy so there is little or no Joy in them, and there is little or no joy in us.

Our reading underscores the need for a time of reflection on how to get this Joy back in the world and in our lives. It is about doing and being so when Jesus comes, we would be our best selves. Its about choosing not to hurt others but be like Jesus. We may not do the dramatic miracles that Jesus did, but we can love unconditionally causing others to heal. We can stop being judgmental and critical but to see life through a lens of second chances, a lens that helps others to reflect and be better people.

This different way of looking at life does not happen overnight. It is a change that we work on. Things happen we reflect on it through our God lens that is, as Jesus presents God – one of compassion, giving so others can live, sharing giving others a new lease on life, leading us hopefully to be able to know the difference in our lives as we experience a deep seated Joy. We become satisfied that God has come into our lives, that we know God as God wants to be known.

Let us pray that despite our difficulties that we may see God acting through us and others. That we may live in such away that we lead others to know God.

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