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.