|I’ve been searching for signs of spring. Slim purple crocus, not yet open. Faint and fuzzy buds on the trees, promising foliage for summer shade. I am looking for evidence of God. Not just in nature, but in the people around me. As we pray together, I hold their hands and ask for God’s presence to be palpable, sensed, seen. |
I ask also for myself. In the morning, as I go about my day, when my head hits the pillow. I wonder what senses we trust to signal God’s presence. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch? What helps us to believe?
Sometimes the Holy Spirit is a heady sensation, overwhelmingly obvious. But many days are rather quiet. Ordinary. My Jan. 26 Indianapolis experience was full of the presence of God, whispering words in my mind, flowing through my fingers. Two months later, Indianapolis was just a fun town full of volleyball. No message, no inspiration, no urgency.
It can be hard to have faith during the lulls. The gap between certainties. But underneath my worry that I missed something, there is a peace. I can’t run on adrenaline all the time. If I needed a message, I tried to trust that it would be there.
What, I wonder, did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego need? They were Jews in exile, promoted to administering the province of Babylon, igniting the jealousy of Chaldeans who wanted those positions for themselves. When Daniel’s friends refused to worship the gold statue of the state, they faced the king’s wrath and the heat of his fiery furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (NASB)
Do I trust God’s ability the way these guys did? Do I trust God’s love? That whether or not deliverance appears, I will serve the Lord anyway. That I won’t turn to the gods of my own hands, my own abilities, my own wealth. But God often shows up when we are most desperate. When we are in the midst of the flames, feeling like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” Daniel 3:24-25(NASB)
Nebuchadnezzar was shocked by the witness of his own eyes. He was not looking for God. He didn’t expect God to show up. But the flames revealed what was already true, that God’s presence is here. Moving among us to encourage and strengthen us. If only we can see and recognize.
When we have a powerful experience of the Lord, it seems like it will change us forever. But, as they say, time goes on. What our eyes have seen, what our senses have perceived, fades in our memories. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we look out at our world and see not God’s blessings, but our own achievements and hard work.
Or perhaps we just return to our ordinary life. Where only if we are looking and believing do we see evidence that the Lord has been here. We do not long for the flames, but we miss the certainty of the physical presence of the Lord walking around loose among us.
Belief is a habit. Faith is an exercise. Flashy experiences are extinguished from our senses. The small moments make up our lives. May we trust that the Lord is here. May we see with our hearts, and not just our eyes. And may we have friends beside us, whether we are ruling Babylon, or standing in the flames.
Order of Service: 3/24
Sermon: Called to Come: Identifying with Peter