Is God with us, or not?

Scripture illustrates many different forms of the question “is God with us, or not?”

God’s people ask for signs;

the make offerings, they apply heavenly significance to earthly events,

always trying to figure out where God stands – whom God favours –

it is an ancient quest.

It haunts us still, as in our daily living

we tackle economic problems and deal with health issues.

The question I hear most often is “Why would God let this happen?” –

It is the same question, in the end – is God with me, or not?

 

And as we celebrate the 158th anniversary

of the decision to build a church in Sutherland’s River and race into another season of activity in and around the church,

It is a question that sits on the edge of our minds – well, on my mind, at least…

 

We have a long history of faithful witness –

a fine tradition of worship and fellowship –

a commendable record of supporting the mission of the wider church,

not to mention worthy causes within the community –

and yet, our numbers dwindle –

our future is uncertain – our community is radically changed –

and it is not blasphemy to wonder “is God with us, or not?”

 

Other churches have different approaches –

should we be afraid of the variety of Christian churches that surround us? 

Are they a threat to our existence? 

 

And the multitude of Presbyterians in this area – what can be done about that?

Why, so many opportunities exist, it’s no wonder we struggle!

The market is saturated – the competition is fierce – we haven’t a chance…

 

But a word of hope comes to us today –

and it comes from “both directions” if you will.

“if it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”

says all of Israel with the Psalmist –

as from the midst of their despair they are reminded

 that the best evidence for the presence of God is the existence of God’s people

Not always prosperous. 

Not always comfortable –

Beset by troubles, hemmed in on every side,

yet still standing. 

There are trials and terror, but they are surviving,

and that (says the Psalmist) rates a song of highest praise! 

 

And from the gospel too, Jesus offers an interesting angle on the notion

Whoever is not against us is for us!

Turning the idea on its head,

Jesus would have us look away from our adversaries

and seek those who are seeking the same thing using different methods.

…no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able (soon afterward) to speak evil of me.”

forget about your direct enemies/opponents – embrace the “competition” –

even those whom you don’t understand –

and you will have a new appreciation for the scope of God’s work –

the reality of “God-with-us” is everywhere

 

It seems to me (as much as I tend to draw your attention to the challenges we face)

that the biggest challenge is finding ways to celebrate what God HAS done for us, with us and to us.

We can see the problems looming large.

We lament the scale of peoples indifference –

where have all the people gone –

but with the kind of attitude suggested by the Psalm, and by Jesus –

we can see the work of God and the activity of God in a completely different way.

 

If it had not been the Lord…who moved the mind (and hands)

of our ancestors to build our churches and train their children –

where would we be now?

It it had not been the Lord guiding our decisions,

and filling our moments of doubt with flashes of inspiration, would we

have raised $750 for the camp yesterday or have a newly renovated kitchen here ready to serve the needs of the congregation, and the families of this community in their grief and moments of joy?)

 

Is God with us, or not –

I could not continue in my work if I didn’t believe God was walking with me (and I with God)

The challenge I offer is this – can you see it? Do you believe it? 

Can you live and work and worship in the knowledge of God’s continuing presence and guidance?

If your answer is YES, we have nothing else to fear.

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