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Encountering God


Ask not what you did this summer; ask what God did for you this summer.

I’ve been busy this summer. Yes, busy overseeing the work of our staff, busy planning for the fall, busy with mid year budget reviews, but that is not the kind of busy I mean. I have been busy seeing God. Have you? That is my primary work. It is also yours. We are called to find the grace, love and mercy of God in all things. Our world, our nation, our city and our community needs such searchers and such sharers. Here is what I’ve found this summer: God is everywhere, and the evidence is everywhere. Some examples:

Jen and I are just back from what we called our Tri-state Tour. We rode our bikes from our front door to Cincinnati, along the Ohio River to Louisville and then back to Indy. God was all along the way.

Indiana is so beautiful at the slow speed of our touring bikes. I saw things I’ve never seen when I’ve been speeding along interstates in the car. Our corn field are intertwined with morning glories; they are lined with blue cornflowers. We cycled through rolling hills  under canopies of trees, along quiet country lanes lined with corn and soybeans, along the great Ohio River full of both industry and wildlife. We saw hawks, turkeys, and deer. God is a wonderful gardener in Indiana.

IMG_20160820_150222We also met such gracious hospitality. We experienced such welcome and kind conversation, in diners, inns, coffee shops. A kind bicycle mechanic, Eddie, fixed Jen’s broken wheel in Louisville. People were so courteous along the roads. The vast majority giving us more than ample space as they passed. Hoosier drivers were very respectful of us cyclists. Giving and receiving hospitality is a sacred act. God is always present in the giving and in the receiving of welcome, honoring the image of God in each other.

We also saw God in brokenness. We saw crushing poverty. We heard and overheard stories of drugs, illness, disability and alienation. Proud people in some of our rural countryside feel neglected by our leaders and parties. They are right. This another call for us to widen the circle of God’s embrace. God is in that call.

This summer, we have enjoyed hearing our kids from Joyful Noise sing. Joy is always from God.

We have marveled at the wonders of our creation in our liturgy. This Season of Creation helped me see God anew. Being able in our liturgy to simply be joyful in the wonders of the skies, the seas, the earth, animals and people was such a gift of joy and wonder; having the chance to embrace science with wonder in our prayers; hearing the call to care for “this fragile earth, our island home;” reflecting on the Incarnation as not just a human event but an indwelling of God in all things; these themes helped me meet God in a new way in our worship together. God has been with us this summer in our prayers together.

As our summer ends, as we return to school, to choir, to Sunday School, to programs, to sports schedules, to our busy-ness, let us not lose sight of our true work, our true business. I ask, not what did you do this summer, but what did God do for you this summer? Really, what else matters?

In our planning this summer, we have been asking this question, How can what we are doing help us find God in a new and deeper way? We often begin with other questions, but isn’t this our fundamental one, encountering God? If we do not do this, nothing else we do matters.

The Good News is that God is everywhere saving, loving, healing, challenging, calling, opening hearts, welcoming, caring, restoring and reconciling. But God has given us the job of sharing this work with God. Our job is just that, to find and to share. That is why Holy Communion is sustaining sacrament. We find Christ present and we share Christ together. Each week we practice our primary work together.

As Episcopalians, we sometimes are a little stiff in how we talk about this; we are a little reluctant to talk about it. We talk about programs, about anthems, about service, but too often we do not talk about God in these things. From my ministry among you, I know that is what we mean. God is with us as we grow in our learning, as we hear beauty in our music, as we respond in compassion to those in need, as we lift our voices to confront injustice and to give voice to the voiceless. But it becomes much more powerful when we can talk about God in our life, in our programs, in our ministries.

Our community, our neighbors, and newcomers, they do not want to hear about our programs, about our ministries, about our organs and choirs. They want to encounter God. Let’s do our primary work. Let’s talk about God in our lives, about Christ in all things, about the Holy Spirit moving among us in all we do. I can tell you that the world is starved for this message of Good News.
So, this coming week at coffee hour, I dare you, ask not what you did this summer, ask what did God do for you this summer. If we dare, we will grow closer to God, and we will be evangelists, sharing the Good News. This is magnetic. This is what we all long to hear.