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Communitas

Over the course of my studies and reading I came across this word ‘Communitas’ which I assumed was just people being pretentious when they meant community!
Yet yesterday reading the fantastic book by Alan Hirsch I came across this phrase “Communitas, not to be confused with community” and he had a helpful glossary of terms in the back of the book, so I looked up this word, and its definition got my heart beating a little faster!
Hirsch talks about our desire for community as “huddle and cuddle” the idea that community is a place of belonging, sanctuary, comfort most of all safe. This community image is particularly visible over the Christmas season where we gather together with our nearest and dearest and then pull up the draw bridge and eat our own body weight in chocolate!

Yet communitas is not this word at all, rather is stems from the idea of young African tribesmen’s transition from childhood to warrior. The idea in more akin to a regiment in the army, a sports team or support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous -it’s a transformative community, transitioning us from sinful to fruitful and Christ-like. It is a community where ‘iron sharpens irons just as one person sharpens another”.

Yet communitas is also about context, friendships fostered together by necessity and survival, often our Church based relationships are superficial because we do not really need one another for our survival, we have largely removed all elements of risk or danger from our spiritual walks, and as such our relationships are not purified in the crucible of conflict and adversity. The Church of Jesus Christ is not meant to be somewhere safe and cossetted away from the world, but rather to engage in spiritual warfare, shaking the very “gates of hell” which Christ tells us “will not prevail against us” (Matthew 16.17).

Indeed, someone once said “if you want a quiet life the person you must steer away from is Jesus Christ!” -too often we try and sell Christianity as a pleasure cruise when in reality it is a battleship, and yet I believe that many of us long for more than just comfort and stability and a yearning for an adventure of faith, believing that the Christian life is so, so, much more than we have experienced and tasted and that God has more for us (so much more!).

Christians saying in the face of danger, risk and discomfort -bring it on!- as we stand shoulder with one another, us being vulnerable, needing other people and inviting them into be close to us and them doing likewise with us, a coming together for the same of the Kingdom -the greatest cause in human existence, advancing in our neighbourhood.

So, let’s learn to move from communities that are just safe and comfortable, to be communities of adventure, drawing out the Kingdom potential in one another, iron sharpening iron as we all more like Christ, and the world sees more of his glory, even if it is during times of pain and suffering.

So, let us learn to be communitas, rather than just community, in our dangerous adventure of faith.

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Do I miss the Angel because I am beating the Donkey?

Then the Israelites travelled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan opposite Jericho.

2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, ‘This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.’

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River Euphrates, in his native land. Balak said:

‘A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. 6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.’

7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

8 ‘Spend the night here,’ Balaam said to them, ‘and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.’ So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

9 God came to Balaam and asked, ‘Who are these men with you?’

10 Balaam said to God, ‘Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 “A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.”’

12 But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, ‘Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.’

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, ‘Balaam refused to come with us.’

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

‘This is what Balak son of Zippor says: do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.’

18 But Balaam answered them, ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.’

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, ‘Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.’

Balaam’s donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lordstood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’

29 Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you here and now.’

30 The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’

‘No,’ he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lordstanding in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell face down.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.’

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.’

35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.’ So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.


The story of Baalam in numbers 22 is a fab story, not just because if you read an old fashioned version of the bible it calls it Balaams Ass, it is the only animal ever to speak in Scripture, Denis Adide spoke at All Souls on this passage, do check it out on our web page, worth a listen.

He said two things that made me think, first of all about the fact that we should take stock in being used by God instead our value is being loved by God.

Our worth does not come from what we do, but who we are, loved by God.

Yet the other thing that struck me, was that from Balaams perspective he was beating the Donkey because he couldn’t see what God was doing.

It made me wonder, am I often frustrated because I miss what God is doing too?

Do I miss the Angel because I’m too busy beating the donkey?

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Praying for Sandbanks.

Recently there has been a real renewed emphasis on prayer in parts of the Church in Poole, one such group is the fantastic interdenominational group that meets and prays fortnightly in Turlin Moor, which is one of the areas which historically has been one of the more deprived areas of Poole. It is great to pray there, and brilliant to that the wider Church has grasped something of God’s heart for those who maybe marginalised by sections of society, yet I have become increasingly worried about how we equate wealth with our need of God. True there are statistics available in most disenfranchised communities that can be pulled of the web which as Christians should rightly challenge our hearts and prompt us to pray. Yet everyone needs Jesus. Christ is good news for both rich and poor alike and all need saving!

Perhaps even the rich are harder to reach than the poor?

There is no glamour in serving the rich as scrubbing the toilets of the soup kitchen has a certain feeling of servitude and sacrifice, whereas drinking excellent coffee in a lovely sitting room doesn’t feel like frontline spiritual warfare (although I believe it very well could be!)

Jesus himself said that “it is harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (i.e. impossible!)
For many years Christianity has flourished amongst those who have the least but now in our day Christianity has become very respectable and middle class with expensive cars in the Church car park!

Perhaps in our mission to the affluent and middle class has floundered because Christendom, middle-class morality and daily mail reading bigotry has confused us and left us failing to embody a Kingdom distinctiveness amongst our peers?

What does it look like to be ‘within’ and ‘in-with’ an wealthy culture (or any culture) and still follow the carpenter from Nazareth who had no where to lay his head.

Jesus sent the rich young ruler away with the challenge to “sell all he had and to give the money to the poor” -the rich man went away sad for he was very wealthy- but I wonder would we do the same thing as Jesus, or would we be buttering him up with pound-signs in our eyeballs wondering what we could do with his cash if he started to tithe to our congregation?

How do we reach the rich without selling out?

What does discipleship look like amongst the privileged, do we too often ignore the elephant in the room and making the gospel very spiritual and not grounded into the challenge Christ makes to our wallets (often the last part of us to get converted!).

Indeed, with great wealth and privilege comes great responsibility and challenge. John Wesley said ““[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds … you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” Before we feel to smug a recent statistic says that if we have a fridge freezer we are in the 10% of the worlds’ wealthiest and if we have the internet in our home we are in the top 3%.

So, working out how to live an authentic faith following Jesus in the midst of wealth is a challenge for us personally, and complex to work out within a Christ centred community too and difficult to share the message of Christ with those who think they have everything but actually have nothing.

’The Parable of the rich fool’, ‘the parable of the rich man and Lazarus’ and Ezekiel’s image of the dry bones that came together to form perfect looking bodies but without the breath of God within them were still spiritually dead all show that need for something that we all have that only God can satisfy. After-all “what does it profit a person who gains the whole world but loses their soul?”

Wealth, affluence and privilege may be an obstacle to people coming to know Jesus but it is not an obstacle that is insurmountable to the missionary Spirit of the Living God who long for all to know him. Rich and poor, privileged or marginalised, affluent or destitute no one is beyond the reach of the love of God.

So, let’s respond to this challenge and let us pray for the people of sandbanks with the same passion, zeal and fervour that we pray for the people of Turlin Moor!

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Wimber: The Man who just wanted to do the stuff!

In America there was a rock and roll musician In America there was a rock and roll musician called John Wimber, who played with the Righteous Brothers amongst other bands.

He was an Atheist who ended up meeting powerfully with God, surrendered his life to Chirst and started going along to Church.

After a few weeks hearing and reading stories from the Bible about people being healed, raised from the dead, miraculous signs and the gospel being proclaimed and people becoming Christians Wimber asked a fantastic question “When are we going to start doing the stuff?”

“Doing the Stuff” meant for Wimber meant putting into practice what he had read in the Bible, that we are called to do, the stuff that Jesus instructed us to do, interestingly this was not just the signs and wonders, it included the social justice work of feeding the hungry and also of sharing the good news about Jesus with anyone and everyone. His honest question did not get a proper answer, and it was that question that birthed the movement of the Vineyard Church, to take Christ at his word and to do the things in the Bible.

It was this question which lead Wimber into conflict with the cessationists. These are people who believed that the Apostolic age ended with death of the first apostles and spiritual gifts are not for today. It is a ridiculous heresy with no biblical basis -ironically championed by people who call themselves evangelicals, people of the word! I remember having a real epiphany moment reading the story of Sarah laughing about God enabling her to have a baby in her old age and God rebuked her saying “is anything to hard for God to do?” -the answer is of course no! Wimber challenged the Church to become expectant of God and to pray with boldness and dream big, he once famously described “faith as spelled R I S K” and spoke meaningfully of following Jesus being an adventure.

Wimber caused the Church to grow not with transferring middle class church hoppers but with broken and disenfranchised people finding Jesus, he was an evangelist and as a former musician related easily with the people Jesus hung out with rather than the religious types. He spoke once of an angry elderly lady who had been part of the Church he was pastoring crying and saying he was ruining the Church by bringing all these undesirables in, his response (so much more gracious that mine has been) he simply hugged the lady and loved her. Sometimes loving the found is so much tougher than loving the lost.

Wimber actually did not talk much about the Church but rather he spoke about the bigger vision, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that Jesus taught us to pray would come on “earth as in heaven” a theology that was not purely rooted in eschatology (it’ll be alright when we die) but rather about the fullness of life which Jesus promised now (Jn.10.10). The rediscovery of Kingdom theology is one that is hope filled and hope infused challenging us to be expectant and ambitious for the Kingdom and glory of God, rediscovering that God is indeed at work powerfully and mightily within his creation, within his world, within his Church and within the lives of believers and also in not yet believers drawing them to Jesus.

For many the Holy Spirit is the oft ignored and most misunderstood member of the Trinity, Wimber helped us as Church (especially in the West) explore the riches of who he is and what he does, enabling our Trinitarian theology to become more whole and less lopsided!

Wimber spoke about teaching that prayer works and people can be healed, and they kept on praying for people, yet for nine months they did not see anyone healed and yet he kept on praying and encouraging others to pray for healing and miracles. Gradually they saw more and more prayers answered and their faith rose along with boldness and expectation encouraging others to do the same.

He founded the Vineyard movement which was a radical missional movement connecting people who were dissatisfied with traditional religion, especially with young people, yet Wimber -like Wesley and Booth before him- never intended to start his own denomination but rather the institutional Church resembling the old wine skin could not cope with the new thing God was doing and it became an entity in its own right.

Wimber was great investor in other people, he mentored several young men who ended up making an incredible difference to the spiritual DNA of England with John Collins being the forerunner of Sandy Miller and the work that Holy Trinity Brompton has done both with Alpha and resource Churches; David Watson who lead many missions around the Universities of the UK leading many people to Christ and David Pytches who founded the New Wine movement and helped birth the youth festival Soul Survivor. Who we raise, mentor, encourage and invest in can bear fruit for the Kingdom we might never see but will cause angels to rejoice in heaven. Indeed these great men invested in others who in turn have seen lives changed and the ripples continue to the glory of Christ.

Yet despite Wimber (and his protégé David Watson) both being advocates of praying for God to heal people both men sadly passed away from cancer, their lives cut short despite being held in many peoples prayers, the mystery and the pain of the unexplained and complex nature of why some people do not get healed and prayers not get answered the way we want them to.

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Thoughts from a sleep out!

Looking out of the window, I saw the rain lashing against the glass and my wife gave voice to my concern “you’re sleeping out in this tonight” she said.

“Yeah!” I said trying to sound brave and full of fortitude (to be honest, I don’t know what fortitude is, but thought the word sounded good!).

We were doing this sleep out to raise money and awareness of homelessness in this area, people think Poole is a nice place (and it is) but people are unaware of the poverty and deprivation that exist here too. Last year the council wanted to impose a PSPO order banning homeless people from the town centre, making it illegal to beg (they fine beggars which seems as cruel as it is pointless!) and to sleep in doorway. Each month (and I wish I could do it more) I help with “Routes to Roots” a homeless drop in where we feed people who want a hot meal, give out clothes -and sometimes shoes- and seek to bless them, and it is a wonderful blessing, but my heartbreaks when we send them back out into the cold at the end of the evening. We (as in the Church) do do a lot, but there is still so much more that needs doing, we are only a small way up the mountain. On Friday at Routes to Roots there were just three of us working and it was hard work and exhausting, one lad was utterly off his face -and to be honest I don’t blame him, if I had to sleep rough each night I could easily imagine turning to the bottle.

A volunteer didn’t turn up which left us short staffed, reminding me of what I call “hypothetical kindness” people who have good intentions, but these never actually materialise into positive action. My cynical side remembered my friend Sam from our Church house-group (or as she calls it cake club!) saying about how “everyone cares about homelessness in December and doesn’t give a sh*t in January!”

Anyway, that Saturday the rain got worse and worse, so much so that it was horrendous in the run up to the sleep out, so much so that we did have a conversation about postponing it, but as we said on the phone people in crisis don’t have the option of waiting for the nice weather to come. We did decide that sleeping in a polly-tunnel outside the URC didn’t class as cheating because the real homeless do find places of shelter to sleep in. Talking on the phone to my friend and colleague Mark he said that homeless folk do come and sleep there sometimes -I had an unhelpful image of Goldilocks and the three bears with a homeless person being angry at us nicking ‘their’ spot!
Then my wife fell off the loft ladder and this looked like we might have to cancel the sleep out as she’d given her back a nasty bash, but she -being a star- still let me go.

By the time we set off to sleep out the rain had stopped and was actually slightly milder (it had been freezing, interestingly the sever weather emergency protocols (SWEP) only kick in after 3 consecutive nights bellow freezing).
We were a smaller number of volunteers, being a small-number it would have been easier to cancel, but I am so glad we didn’t, indeed the spur of one or two encouraging friends is what we all need to challenge us all to do the right thing rather than the comfortable thing. I briefly mulled over the prophetic calling to be the ‘grit in the oyster’ the one that challenges us all to look seeing the world differently and to respond -too often in our Churches we let each other ‘off the hook’ and do not ‘spur one another on towards love and good deeds’ (Heb.10:24). I wondered afresh about an ‘ambassador vocation’ a missionary not from the Church but rather to the Church to remind ourselves of the priorities of the one who asked if we “fed/sheltered/visited/cared for him… when we did it to the ‘least of these we did it to me (Jesus)’ (Matt.25). Mother Teresa said: “in the poor we see Christ often in his most distressing ‘disguises’”.

As I thought more about raising awareness, I remembered a sleep out I did many years ago in Salisbury when the Bishop slept out with us, interestingly the previous year only a few of us had come out but when he came suddenly every ‘brown-nosing clergyperson’ crawled out of the woodwork deciding to care about homelessness for an evening, yet my hope was in the cold of the night the Holy Spirit would be touching lives and birthing Kingdom movements.

Anyway, we started with coffee and prayer at the URC and we were joined by a guy who had invented a thermo shelter for the homeless, significantly warmer than a tent and light-weight to carry around, also not flammable giving the homeless that extra degree of safety.

His ingenuity birthed the conversation with dreams of what we could do to help rough sleepers and join up the gaps in the poverty provision in Poole.

As the conversation paused we went out and began to set up for the sleep out, we felt vulnerable, the area we are sleeping in is just down the road from the night life of Poole in Ashley Cross, I remember working in rehab with a young guy who got kicked around like a football whilst trying to sleep in a sleeping bag in a doorway by a group of drunk lads. Later in the evening I remembered my friend Jo from Kingswood, a homeless transsexual, whose worldly goods were set fire to in the bus shelter she used to sleep in, a homophobic attack or a homeless hate crime, whatever it was it was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of the homeless.

We recorded a couple of thoughts on Mike’s mobile, hoping to edit together on a fab video about “Doing December Differently”, and then went off to sleep, one of our number fell asleep quickly and he got teased a bit for snoring!

Later in the night we all woke with a start, there was noise of lads shouting, turned out just to be from the road, but it still was another reminder of vulnerability. Realised afresh that is why so many of the homeless have dogs, not just for the company but for protection.

We woke early, feeling stiff and achy, longing to leap in a hot shower, but realise that is not something on offer for many of the homeless people. As we chatted later about the night, we said that a one off evening is unpleasant but doing this long term would be horrible, in fact a sobering thought is that the average life expectancy for a rough sleeper is 47, 6 years older than me.

As I toddled off to Church in the morning, driving past two tents pitched under the multi storey car park, I listened to the story of Jesus’ parable about the great banquet, where the person throwing the party invited anyone and everyone to come and join his banquet. The Gospel being a party invitation and the Church being like God extending his radical hospitality and love to everyone, even (or maybe especially) those who are broken, hurting, hope-less, marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Later as I saw a million facebook posts from various churches doing their Christmas things and I was struck how massively middle class they all looked and then thought of the people Jesus hung out with and the contrast was huge.

Perhaps I’ve just become a militant nutter over the years but I long for transformation and the Church that bears the name of Jesus Christ to look more and more like him and doing the things he did and commanded.

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Presence…

I was at a chapter meeting – these are meetings where the local clergy meet together- we had to go into small groups and talk about what was our goal, our aim, our “big yes”. I started with my big yes which was very ‘John Wimber-esk’ something to the effect of “to follow Jesus taking as many people with me as I could”. My friend Jimmy Rocks said just two words “his presence”. In that moment I realised that Jimmy was right, too often I’m like Martha the stressed out host that rushes around rather than her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

Too often we can prioritise “doing” over “being”. The Father urged us to “be still and know that I am God” a call away from the busyness and noise of a manic world with its warped priorities and to find our hearts and minds becoming re-aligned and re-calibrated from this Kingdom to God’s eternal Kingdom. God urged us to “seek his face” – coming to know him, experience him and his presence- rather than just seeking his hands, seeking the gifts but ignoring the giver.

God whose greatest gift he bestowed on his creation was himself, his presence with his creation. The God of the universe walking with his creation “in the cool of the evening” but the greatest tragedy of the fall was not the consequences they had to face but God’s presence with drawing from them and the relationship between God and humanity was fractured. In history times of trouble we have wanted God’s help, we have called on his hands but not interested in his heart or himself. We seek the work of God’s hands rather than seeking his face.

Yet God is wanting to be known, walking and talking with Moses “as a person talks with a friend”, David was described as “a man after God’s own heart” and wrote in the psalms that it is better “one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere” and the Father urges us to “be still and know that I am God”. God’s presence was spasmodically experienced throughout the Old Testament, brief and momentary visitations of God’s presence. The name Jesus was given by the Angel Gabriel was “Immanuel – God with us”. Jesus lived amongst us in the presence and pleasure of God. The temple modelled the absence and separateness of humanity with large thick dividing curtains keeping the presence of God away from ordinary people. Jesus taking the sin of the world on his shoulders cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the first time in his life he experienced not residing in the presence and pleasure of God.

As Jesus died the temple curtain ripped in two, symbolising that anyone can have a relationship with God and experience his presence, the fall of Eden was restored and reconciled by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As Pentecost followed quickly on the heels of the resurrection and ascension we see God dwelling with us, and in us, no longer infrequent visitation but continual habitatio, God with us immanuel. We can come into God’s presence with boldness because of Christ’s sacrifice.

When we seek Christ we discover he himself is the bread of life that truly satisfies, the living water that quenches our deepest thirst. His presence with us is our food and our fuel for the journey. He himself is our all sufficient one. Gods presence is the place of our hearts deepest longing, where we belong, our home, where we understand our true identity and find our restless souls find the resting peace and peace.

As we invest in the relationship beyond all others that will last for all eternity. A God who bids us welcome to come and be with him and chooses to presence himself with us.

So, if I was ever asked that question again I would say the same as Jimmy, “to seek the presence of God” won for us on the cross and restored the plan of Eden where we were created, redeemed and filled with the Holy spirit so we can be in relationship with him and experience his presence.

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Presence

I was at a chapter meeting – these are meetings where the local clergy meet together- we had to go into small groups and talk about what was our goal, our aim, our “big yes”. I started with my big yes which was very ‘John Wimber-esk’ something to the effect of “to follow Jesus taking as many people with me as I could”. My friend Jimmy Rocks said just two words “his presence”. In that moment I realised that Jimmy was right, too often I’m like Martha the stressed out host that rushes around rather than her sister Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

Too often we can prioritise “doing” over “being”. The Father urged us to “be still and know that I am God” a call away from the busyness and noise of a manic world with its warped priorities and to find our hearts and minds becoming re-aligned and re-calibrated from this Kingdom to God’s eternal Kingdom. God urged us to “seek his face” – coming to know him, experience him and his presence- rather than just seeking his hands, seeking the gifts but ignoring the giver.

God whose greatest gift he bestowed on his creation was himself, his presence with his creation. The God of the universe walking with his creation “in the cool of the evening” but the greatest tragedy of the fall was not the consequences they had to face but God’s presence with drawing from them and the relationship between God and humanity was fractured. In history times of trouble we have wanted God’s help, we have called on his hands but not interested in his heart or himself. We seek the work of God’s hands rather than seeking his face.

Yet God is wanting to be known, walking and talking with Moses “as a person talks with a friend”, David was described as “a man after God’s own heart” and wrote in the psalms that it is better “one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere” and the Father urges us to “be still and know that I am God”. God’s presence was spasmodically experienced throughout the Old Testament, brief and momentary visitations of God’s presence. The name Jesus was given by the Angel Gabriel was “Immanuel – God with us”. Jesus lived amongst us in the presence and pleasure of God. The temple modelled the absence and separateness of humanity with large thick dividing curtains keeping the presence of God away from ordinary people. Jesus taking the sin of the world on his shoulders cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – the first time in his life he experienced not residing in the presence and pleasure of God.

As Jesus died the temple curtain ripped in two, symbolising that anyone can have a relationship with God and experience his presence, the fall of Eden was restored and reconciled by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As Pentecost followed quickly on the heels of the resurrection and ascension we see God dwelling with us, and in us, no longer infrequent visitation but continual habitatio, God with us immanuel. We can come into God’s presence with boldness because of Christ’s sacrifice.

When we seek Christ we discover he himself is the bread of life that truly satisfies, the living water that quenches our deepest thirst. His presence with us is our food and our fuel for the journey. He himself is our all sufficient one. Gods presence is the place of our hearts deepest longing, where we belong, our home, where we understand our true identity and find our restless souls find the resting peace and peace.

As we invest in the relationship beyond all others that will last for all eternity. A God who bids us welcome to come and be with him and chooses to presence himself with us.

So, if I was ever asked that question again I would say the same as Jimmy, “to seek the presence of God” won for us on the cross and restored the plan of Eden where we were created, redeemed and filled with the Holy spirit so we can be in relationship with him and experience his presence.

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