On finding a vision of God

Every now and then God gives you and me a moment when he shows us his glory. The problem is that we do not always see what it is that God is showing us, because we are wrapped up in our own thoughts and activities. Sometimes we only realise that God has been at work after the event. We look back and can now see that this moment in our past – be it joyful & beautiful or challenging & hard – was a moment in which we were helped on our way through life. We look back and say “Ah yes, now I see why that happened the way it did.”

In our 1st Reading (Genesis 12:1-4 Abram takes a big step into the unknown when he leaves his country and travels over a thousand miles to reach the area we now call Israel & Palestine. Written after the event, it gives the impression that he knew exactly what God was saying to him; but if we were to read on in his story, we would see how often he doubts whether this first experience was a real one, as he is tested and troubled in various ways, and on one occasion almost kills his son Isaac, just to prove to God and himself that he does trust in the vision of the future that he has received.

This was also the case for Peter, James and John. The story we have heard today (Matt 17:1-9) is presented as a clear vision of glory that could not be misunderstood; but we have to remember that the story that we read as our Gospel today is what they told to others after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then, they could look back through all the suffering they had endured, and see this vision for what it really was. But on the way, despite the vision, we need to remember that although they had sometimes trusted Jesus, they had at other times doubted and misunderstood him. Finally, despite the vision, they had run away when he was arrested, and hid in misery when he was killed on the cross; and then at first been surprised and confused when his full glory was revealed at Easter.

Thus we are reminded today how important it is to look back and to try and identify things that have happened to us where now we can see God at work in our life. As I said earlier, this may not always be a happy event. I have met any number of people who have been brought closer to God by the death of a loved one, or by some illness or trouble that they have had to face, and have somehow got through. When we are in the midst of some such sad time, it is very very hard indeed to see or to feel God’s presence. It is only later, when we have come through it all, that we can then look back and see what it was that helped us through. There we will then see that God was at work.

It is perhaps even more difficult to register that God is at work when everything is going well. I find it sad to notice how many people actually give up prayer and going to Church simply because they get too busy having a good time.  Yes, how easily we can ignore him then when times are good, and get fed up with the idea of regular prayer, of regularly opening our life to him; and then when times get hard complain that God never helps us, that God is never there for us.

Looking back to see where God has been with us in the past, may therefore help us to see where God is at work in our lives now, or where he may be at work in the future. Prayer is about keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open for what God is saying to us, and what God is doing in us and for us. This is why prayers of thanksgiving are so important. We must thank God every day that we are alive. We must thank God for friends and for others who support us. We must thank God for the food we eat and for the beauty of the natural world around us, and so on and on.

 The hymn “How great thou art”  comes to mind. Look at the words. This is prayer.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!