Seen and Unseen
It’s easy to see and touch
And hear and feel
And even smell
Things that are real in the world around us
Those friends of Jesus saw and touched
Heard and felt and even smelled
The risen Christ and knew he was real.
When we cannot see and cannot touch
When we cannot hear and cannot feel
Help us to know deep within
That your unseen presence is with us
To strengthen and uphold us
And help us know that your love
Will never let us go. Amen
The heart of the Christian faith is not a theory. It is an event that happened nearly 2000 years ago. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus. At his death his followers were shattered. Then something happened to change that. John in his gospel goes out of his way to tell of the way Mary Magdalene and then all of Jesus’ friends saw the risen Jesus and heard his voice. Thomas saw, heard and touched Jesus. Peter and the others on the shore smelled woodsmoke from the fire where Jesus was cooking breakfast – and then they tasted the meal.
Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, Taste.
John was in no doubt about it … and that’s the way he opens the letter that acts almost as a covering letter to John’s Gospel.
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life
There’s the beginnings of a transformation that comes over the disciples. Their lives had been shattered, all their hopes dashed. But now the resurrection turned all of that upside down.
But still they met behind closed doors.
Something else mattered to them. Something else came deep within them. And then they were energized. Energised to such an extent that the shattered remnant of followers of a little known teacher from Galilee became a movement that swept through the
The something else that happened could not be seen in the same way. It could not be felt or touched. And yet although it was unseen, it was very real.
Shortly before he died Jesus shared one last meal with his close friends. It was at that meal that he spoke of that deep, inner power, that strength that would make such a difference in their lives.
John 14:15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
In baptism we use something you can see and hear and touch and smell and taste. Water. It’s real. It’s a reminder to us that at the heart of our Christian faith is something real people saw and heard and touched and smelled and tasted.
But in baptism we celebrate that just as the water is real, so the love of God is real deep within our hearts. That reminds us of something else that’s so important.
There’s a strength, a power, a resource, an energy that we can draw on that is deep within us that can help us through. It is something to help us through those difficult times when we know that in our own strength we cannot get through.
How can we release that power?
At the beginning of the year we asked people to come up with ideas about what makes Highbury special. One set of words people came up with had to do with our worship and prayer. It’s one of those wonderful things that happens sometimes – Kelly will remember Mary B as our Hy-Tec leader – as the person who co-ordinates our prayer rotas at church and is the deacon who focuses on prayer I had asked Mary to share some thoughts about prayer a couple of Sundays ago. But Mary was away. She could do it today instead. And that’s really appropriate …
So over to Mary for thoughts on prayer.
After speaking of the different opportunities there are at Highbury to share in prayer Mary went on to reflect on prayer, using two analogies and one promise.
She suggested that prayer was a little like completing a circuit with God. Just as a light won’t come on unless the electric circuit is completed, so too with our concern for others and God’s presence prayer is the way we have of ‘completing the circuit’ and ensuring that we are in that circle of power and energy that comes from God and surrounds his people.
What’s the value of praying? There’s a mystery to it, Mary suggested, that we can only begin to find some understanding of. Standing to one side of the front of our church behind the lecturn, Mary observed that she saw everyone in front of her and knew some, but not all, could see some but not all, and those she was concerned for she only could see some of those needs. She asked us to imagine that God was, as it were, on the other side of the platform – God sees above and below, around and within us, he sees us in a way we cannot begin to imagine, he knows all our needs. What happens when we pray is that (and at this point Mary began to move to the other side of the platform) we seek to see things from God’s point of view, and we, as it were, hand over those concerns to God knowing that God sees and knows all in the deepest of ways.
And finally, Mary, offered one promise. You don’t have to be anyone special to pray. Jesus mixed with all sorts and conditions of people and shared love with everyone. So, whoever we are, wherever we are from, whatever our weaknesses prayer is something that releases that unseen presence of God into our lives and into our world.
After we all sang, Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me, Mary led us in our prayers. In those prayers we prayed for one member of the congregation who was setting off for Ramallah in
Palestine to share in medical education work.